Dealing with People Who Talk Down to Me


demeaning and demanding peopleI reached a point in my adult life where I found myself wondering why some people who seemed to be so nice to other people, were not so nice to me.  I realized as I grew in this process of emotional healing that it had a lot to do with my own inner value. It was as though people could “see” how much I would put up with. My worth, before I emerged from broken had a lot to do with what I could do for others. I thought that my value was in what I had to offer. A lot of people took advantage of me and used me. I did a lot of service work but wasn’t really appreciated for it. I tried not to do if for the appreciation, but when people treated me like I didn’t matter, it really hurt me. I bent over backwards to “be good enough to deserve acceptance.”

I had to learn to value myself ~ enough to call them on it. I had to realize that they were wrong to treat me that way and if I let it go, they were likely to keep doing it. I had to care enough about me to reject that kind of treatment. I had to realize that when people talk down to me, it doesn’t define me as beneath them.  On the other hand I also had to learn that when people fall all over themselves to be with me, that doesn’t define me as worthy either. That was the false definition of love and acceptance that I had to come to understand in this process of emotional healing.

This was a huge part of my recovery process.

First I had to own my anger at this injustice towards me as a person.  I had to own my equality and believe in myself. Instead of constantly asking myself what was wrong with me and searching my heart for how I could be worthy of love and respect, I started to ask myself why people felt they had permission to treat me as less valuable or less important than they were.

The truth those thoughts led to enabled me to start asking those people who were discounting me questions about why they behaved the way they did towards me.

Years ago I would fantasize about talking to them the way that they talked to me. I imagined myself rising up and using all my sarcastic voice infliction, sneering down at them or rolling my eyes at them and disregarding them the same way that they disregarded me. I would “show them” how it felt. But that is not me. I hated that I didn’t know HOW to make them treat me as an equally valuable person.

I had to learn to stop seeing myself through their eyes.

Instead of scheming up ways of showing them how it feels when someone talks like that or ways to get revenge, I started to ask questions that seemed to shock them.  I say things like “why are you talking to me that way as though I am “nothing”?  I ask “why are you talking to me as though I have no feelings?” or I say “why are you speaking to me as though I am beneath you?”or one of my favourites;  “why are you talking to me like I am stupid?” No one ever has an answer. But they stop. They don’t know what to say. They are usually in shock because I point out their behaviour. Sometimes it is just a matter of letting them know that I know what they are doing. They are not fooling me anymore and they are not manipulating me anymore. I am not going to be regarded as beneath anyone. 

In the past I was afraid to make those kinds of statements (in the form of questions) because I was afraid that my feelings were wrong. I thought that maybe I was misunderstanding the intention of the person doing the mistreating. I thought I was “exaggerating”; I thought they must be right ~ that in truth maybe I really was nothing. I believed that I was less than other people. I had no understanding of equal value or equality for all people. I thought everyone else was deserving, but that something was wrong with me. I thought that it was my own fault (not that I could figure out WHY it was my fault) that people looked down on me.

When I married my husband his sister constantly talked down to me. For years she went out of her way to put me down whenever he wasn’t in the same room as us. When the kids were born she included my mothering ideas in her constant putdowns and sneering judgements of me. I found it SO frustrating but what could I do? I had no idea that I could point it out to her. It never occurred to me. And it didn’t occur to me because I was pretty sure that I must be wrong. I was sure that it was ME and it didn’t dawn on me that it might be HER or that she was proving herself to be a mean spirited woman. I didn’t realize that I was not the problem, and as I have written so often in the past, I had been convinced all my life that I was the problem… so I didn’t have the guts, OR the conviction  about where the truth lay, to say anything.  I took it. I tried harder to get her to like me!

When I first considered asking these kinds of questions, I thought that I was being a b-word. I really thought that sticking up for myself was mean and nasty and that I was presenting myself as mean and nasty if I confronted anyone with a statement like that. I was afraid that if I were to say any form of  “I don’t have to take your nasty attitude” that they would say “what a b-word you are”.  I had it really mixed up. 

But I got stronger. I grew in my understanding of the misuse of power and control. My self esteem began to recover.  I did not deserve that treatment from anyone. I am not stupid and I don’t have to allow people to treat me or to speak to me like I am stupid. The way they regarded me was about them and that isn’t my problem.  One of my fears was that they wouldn’t like me if I stood up to them. But by their actions and regard for me, they already didn’t like me enough to respect me. Another of my fears was that they would leave me, but they had never been with me. Relationship of any kind with them was conditional. My fears were misplaced and when I saw the truth, those overwhelming fears began to diminish. If they walked out of my life, and many of them have, what was I going to miss? 

Now that I know the truth, I can speak it. Now that I know the truth I don’t have to take that crap.  Now that I know the truth, few people ever say anything nasty to me anymore anyway.

My boundary is drawn in my heart.  It comes from the knowledge of my own worth.

And my life is so much healthier! 

Please share your thoughts and feelings.

A snapshot of truth on the journey to emotional healing

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here in the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

218 response to "Dealing with People Who Talk Down to Me"

  1. By: Melinda Posted: 14th April

    So much here that I can relate to.
    I’ve had so many people talk down to me in my life, and it made me realize that I need to love myself more.

    We have to walk away (if possible) from people who continue to mistreat us. It’s the only way to save ourselves.

  2. By: TERESA Posted: 10th April

    Really learning a lot from your site. Never posted here before. What seems to happen to me when I question people’s ‘talking down’ to me is they just seem to kick it up a gear and become sneering and contemptuous. My mother, father and sister are the main perpetrators but it has happened at work as well. Much eye-rolling and ‘oh, here we go again’ – still feeling like a defect.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 11th April

      Hi Teresa,
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken and thank you for sharing. I think from what you have shared, you will find a lot of insight here.
      Hugs, Darlene

    • By: Melinda Posted: 14th April

      Some people are seriously f*cked up and it has nothing to do with us.
      It took me a long time to realize this, but it’s true.

      We have to remember that no matter what they say, it’s about THEM, not us.
      They are projecting their own damage onto others.

  3. By: Ahmed Soliman Posted: 14th September

    Hi Darlene

    I was searching for any tips about how to deal with people who talks down to you and I came across your article, I must admit you did speak out for lots of people including myself and I do feel every word you say. Sometimes, I think people only pick on the weakest link and bully the kind types of people that would never hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s sad when people think it’s ok to hurt some just because they are kind or harmless.

    Best wishes

    • By: Kelly Posted: 21st September

      I resigned from my job about 1 month ago because I was spoken down to and bullied by some colleagues. I reported it to management and they disregarded my complaint because the bullies were close to management. I went through many hard times, lots of tears and anxiety. I left and felt so relieved and now work somewhere else. Unfortunately I work with a colleague who is really mean to me and talks down to me. She swears and has nothing nice to say about anyone. She says things like “oh no am I working with you again” and that she’d rather be working with someone else :(. Really cruel things. I’m back to being anxious and emotional because I need this job and am too afraid to say anything. I’m tired of being in these situations where I have been treated like a no body. I try to be strong and try not to annoy anyone because I just want to get along with people and do my job but it’s so hard when I’m being spoken down to all the time. I live in a small town, I want to move away but my partner doesn’t want to. Feel stuck in life with no solution.

  4. By: JOJO Posted: 13th February

    thank you so much for posting these articles, they really help me understand things. thank you so much.

  5. By: Lauren Posted: 28th January

    I am 29 years old and my mom still talk down to me she always tells me what do like don’t get hair cut like I am 10 years old again it like tell her over and over stop talking down on me and she still does it and I am living with my parents in till I found a place to live and always tell her I am not a little girl anymore and I can’t get through to her and my mom can treat others child in my family differently

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th January

      Hi Lauren
      Welcome to EFB and thanks for sharing.
      I gave up on trying to get my mom to hear me. She doesn’t want to. I hope you will keep reading the articles here. You are not alone.
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Barbara Prindle Posted: 21st January

    This is amazing! I wish that there had been something like this when I was a child. Maybe this can be conveyed in a children’s version.

  7. By: Vickie Posted: 20th November

    Thank you for all of your comments and hope for me. I had bookmarked this article Sept of 2015 and now just fully read the comments. I have a home daycare which corresponds to my wanting to nurture and take care of. Unfortunately the only one that I have neglected was me. I am on my path to change that. IF I fall, they all fall in my life if I don’t take care of myself was one idea pointed out to me but I have to correct that. If I fall, I fall. I have to protect me, no one else will. it is not a selfish thing by any means taking care of me and showing my kids how to be strong for the inner self. My son actually is the one in my life who “bullies” me or talks down to me and no one else except his sister and girlfriend. He says he is joking but I don’t think he knows how to stop it. I have and will point out to him how it hurts me.

  8. By: hank Posted: 28th October

    Although I’m a guy,I’ve anxiety issues and difficulty responding. Because of my anxiety I slow down a little and all others around me not only dominate the conversations but also talk me down. I’m may not be the smartest but why should
    I listen to people having a good time finding new ways to tell me how dumb I’m.
    To add this the only reason I cant do the same is also the reason they think I’m lesser than them. However over the years I see the whole situation differently:
    Think of all units of conversations as exchange of emotions and
    spending energy as your currency.
    Now, as I play my responses in my head i realise that all along
    I was proceeding the most efficient way!
    So all people who one upped me in emotions ended spending more energy to do that, if they did it intentionally.
    So, as long as i can allot my self space and time for, I can proceed being myself and not caring about what people say

    I appreciate your effort and relate so much to this post of yours.

    Best of luck ahead

  9. By: Barbara Posted: 19th October

    Beautifully written. It takes time when you reach adulthood to know who you are and believe in yourself. I have been talked down to and I
    realize that person is touching on my “insecure” emotions creating uncertainty. The process/challenge is to evaluate within “oneself”
    and stand up for yourself as an adult. You still have a choice
    whether to remain friends or in my case transfer to a different supervisor because you could not endure being treated badly. I also
    believe if you confront the person (share how what they said affected you), this may resolve how they communicate with you.
    At the end of it all, you may still need to step back and save yourself. You can only change yourself, not the other person.
    Thank you for your thoughts.

  10. By: alex Posted: 13th October

    the – I stopped seeing myself through their eyes-

    so true that it holds trenght in doin so

    for one – my carer was here the other day, usually quite rude – I wanted to take crisps

    but I kenw she d start about it, how I should eat something else for whatever reason, so instead I waited for her to leave-

    however this made the situation more awkward – she said –

    what the hell are you doing. you re like – what are you doing?

    well just sitting to wave you goodbye

    you re sitting and staring? that s weird; You re weird. anyways I need to pick up my girl now my life is SO hard you have no idea

    it made no difference at all – she lashed out nonetheless and cause of the sititng she spent anothe ten minutes talkin about it

    lookin back, if I had taken the crisps, sat down on my bed face towards the door breakin every contact nonverbal as well – she would ve just left as she doesn t alwys say a goodbye

    so I realised by trying to conform myself to what she thinks I should eat or not eat or whatever when she s around – I actually made myself suffer and on top she was spiteful regardless-

    quite a lesson

  11. By: Kaycee Posted: 12th October

    It is one of those insidious facts, that you do not turn 18 and magically go out into the world equal to everyone else who came from a home where they were loved, forgetting that you have been taught your whole life that you are wrong, incompetent and a lesser human being. I liken overcoming this to being somewhat of a super hero. Other people get to find what they love to dedicate their life to. My life has been dedicated to learning how to love myself. I’m still royally pissed about this if you can’t tell LOL!

  12. By: Amy Posted: 14th September

    Wow I so needed this today, truly relates to myself in how I’ve struggled to find confidence in speaking up and asserting my self worth to others, especially in my family to my sister. My sister and I are both adopted but not related and even though she’s 8 years older she always treated me the worst. I spent my childhood only knowing that she hated me and now that we’re adults she acts superior and treats me like I’m an awful daughter and sister in the family when I do nothing but abide by rules and do everything to make my family happy while she had the troubled past. I hate to feel so lost with someone I should feel akin with but I take a lot of your article to heart and will try to apply these as well so maybe we one day we can come to reconciliation. Thank you for sharing this!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th September

      Hi Amy
      Glad you are finding some good stuff here!
      hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Geannie Posted: 7th September

    Dear Darlene,
    Thank you so much for making me feel better about myself! Now I don’t feel so alone. I thought I was the only one that was going through with all this crap that I have endured my whole life?

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th September

      Hi Geannie
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken!
      You are certainly not alone! There are thousands of people who share or have shared here and hundreds of thousands of people that follow this blog.
      Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: Hope Posted: 2nd September

    Thank you so much Karen. I have so much going on in my head and in my life that I thought I wasn’t making any sense. Hope you are doing well on your journey to healing. Cheers xx

  15. By: Judy Posted: 27th August

    Thanks! I can SO !! relate to what you’ve posted and it is very encouraging. I had decided I’ve had more than enough of other people’s attitudes to whip me with verbally; and the hurt as result of my emotional responses. Especially, that of family. I am in Christ. Are you?

  16. By: Ash Posted: 9th July

    My father has been belittling me since I can remember. He would call me “worthless” and my older sister “scatterbrain”. I let it ruin me it so many years. I felt worthless and small. I let him win. He has always been an alcoholic. He would come home drunk almost every night. He would turn te stereo up full blast and my mother would always forgive me after a few days. To this day, he still goes on binges and belittles me and my mother when we talk to each other or if we laugh or have a good time. It’s like he hates it. I let him win. I believed what he said for so long. I hated myself and have never had any self esteem. I have come to the conclusion that it won’t ever change. It’s who I am now. I didn’t inherit one thing from my fathers personality except the substance abuse. I drank and still use drugs I cope with feeling small. I have never known any different. Don’t I down the same path I went down. Get help early while you are young. It only gets harder and more depressing if you put off getting it.

    • By: Animal Lover Posted: 27th July

      I have a similar issue. I am 24 years old and have never really dealt with issues such as this throughout my younger/school years. For the most part, I have always gotten along with people and have always been kind and understanding. I began working at a barn a little less than a year ago and have been receiving riding lessons in exchange for work. I also help out with leading camps and etc.. There is this girl who was 17 at the time that I hit it off with at the beginning and she eventually offered to give me lessons. I was so grateful and accepted her offer. It was going okay but I noticed after awhile she had sort of an attitude and spoke to me as if I was a child. I ignored it and understood that it is difficult to teach someone and sort of brushed it off. I eventually switched days and I am now taking lessons with a different person and have been improving my riding ability. I still interact with her while helping out with camps. She is an Instructor and I lead kids around and teach them about horses etc..I have only been doing this for a month and There has been a few times in the last couple weeks where she has questioned what I am doing as if I have no idea what I am doing. Thia girl basically talks to me like I am a child and I am older to her! I usually do not care about age I treat EVERYONE the same and give everyone the same respect that I would expect to be given to myself. At first I thought maybe she does this to everyone but that is not true because there are some girls her age she treats like a friend. She talks to me like I am an idiot sort of in a questioning nagging type of voice. Like a really annoying boss except she’s not I charge of anything she just nags me and a bunch of other younger kids around. She treats me like she treats a bunch of 12 years old which is wrong all around because we should all be treated with respect. I sometimes wonder if it’s worth saying anything because I wonder if she might have issues. I don’t feel it is fair to be spoken to the way she speaks to me. It’s embarrassing and makes working with her really awkward. I never speak to people younger than me the way she talks to me. And she is younger than me talking to me that way! It’s insane, I feel like she pushes boundaries because she thinks I don’t realize or won’t say anything. I want to say something to her so badly but I don’t want to ruin the arrangement I have with the stable manager who has been very kind to me. I absolutely love the work I am doing especially since I am in school and need a less demanding job. It’s just so fun having to interact with something who acts as if they are higher authority. I don’t even mind if she is the one In charge she’s been doing this longer than I have. She just doesn’t need to speak to me in a demeaning way or micromanage me. I would like to think it’s much easier to speak to someone as a friend. I personally would never have the audacity to speak to someone older than me like a child. I just hope she learn before she goes to college that no one will put up with it.
      To whoever read this thanks for letting me vent ! Lol have a nice day.

      • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th July

        Hi Animal Lover
        Welcome to EFB ~ thank you for sharing. I understand where you are coming from and you are NOT alone!
        hugs, Darlene

  17. By: Hope Posted: 3rd July

    I was the angry aggressive one in my family coz everyone I came across were either covert or really pushy and the only way I knew how to deal with this was to fight my way through life, no wonder I got nowhere. I felt like a hamster on a wheel and had no idea how to get off. I am really surprised at how people react to the truth told to their face. They either hibernate coz they are embarrassed by their words or act super nice to cover their actions. Nonetheless, I now see what I should have seen as a child. I felt so confused for so long, it is amazing how clear it slowly is unraveling to be.

  18. By: Hope Posted: 2nd July

    Most people on this blog talk about what their parents did to them, I talk about what mine made me do or not allow me to do. I was never sexually abused but I was so brainwashed to believe that they are the be all to end all. I thought my whole life would come crashing down if I stopped my FOO from taking over the reigns, but it didn’t. I was made to believe that if I wasn’t nice to every single person I met, and be their slave, I would be worthless. But exactly the opposite is true. So I am glad to say that by buying Darlene’s ebook and reading this blog it has given me my sanity back, even though I am a really slow learner in this domain. I have one thing I carry around with me wherever I go, and that is myself! So I am starting to believe in myself at a snails pace. I regret a lot of things I didn’t do in my life and now I know why it is this way. Cheers xx

  19. By: Hope Posted: 1st July

    Hi Aaron, when your wife tells you that you are stupid, that makes HER look bad. If it was me I would tell her how terrible she looks when she says things like that. Or ask her what she means? I have been a really aggressive person when it comes to people putting me down and am learning to deal with this issue and I have found ground breaking ways of confronting the culprit head on by just questioning their motives as they say these things to me. Their whole demeanor changes as soon as you throw it back to them (in a normal tone).

  20. By: Aaron Posted: 25th June

    Thank you for this empowering article. Very well said. I do have a question. Once you say the “why do you feel the need to treat me like that,” question, if they don’t stop, what do I do?

    Example: Wife is demeaning, I rebut with the question, and she responds, “because you are actually stupid” or “because you actually don’t know anything.” How do I respond to someone who also won’t back down, though they may be in the wrong.

    Keep in mind I adore my wife and I love her unconditionally. She also loves me but gets this way when she is overwhelmed, stressed, tired, etc. I don’t want to extenuate the issue by arguing. I just be quiet to keep the peace.

    This may have been addressed in other comments but reading all comments since 2011 will take too long. Haha.

  21. By: Sami Posted: 25th June

    I was just thinking this to myself. I was thinking why does everyone treat me like their whipping post? People at work take out their frustrations on me, my family has ALWAYS done it, now my boyfriend does the same when he’s in a mood. They treat me that way because I allow it. I”m not sure I can stand up to my family this way (there’s always been physical repercussions if I said boo) but I know I could ask these questions when I’m talked down to at work and by my boyfriend. IT’s empowering just knowing I will ask these questions next time an issue like this arises.

  22. By: Daniel Posted: 21st June

    Thank you for posting this, it really hit home. As a man I can tell you this has not been easy to deal with. Growing up with a father and mother who screamed at and hit me and then belittled by them for being “meek” was truly awful. Being a meek male makes you a target for bullies, bad bosses, and fair-weather friends and people ridicule you for not standing up for yourself which only adds insult to injury. Now, at age 32, ive only begun to find my voice and a way to stand up for myself though it is difficult and scary. Thank you; this made me feel less alone out there 🙂

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 22nd June

      Hi Julie M.
      Thanks for sharing! Glad you could relate!
      hugs, Darlene

      Hi Daniel,
      Welcome to EFB ~ glad you are here!
      Hugs, Darlene

  23. By: Amber Posted: 8th April

    Julie M I feel for you, as I have been in so many similar situations. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner every year and no one offering to take a turn. People used my house as a hotel and expected use of my car too and transportation to the airport. I had to learn to say no to people who demand too much. It is not easy but you can do it! Your daughter is a smart girl! It took me years to see I was being the giver all the time and everyone had excuses not to reciprocate.
    People also talked down to me. The worst recent experience was a few months ago when the ” lady” who watches my daughter sometimes ( who is well compensated too) got very demanding and unreasonable as far as what I should be giving her. She even demanded sick days ( this is at most a four hour a week commitment) and a raise because the weather had been bad and she couldn’t come, and advance payments. All these demands, even though she is already well paid. She and her husband got very nasty over the phone with me. Even though I was shaking, I stood my ground and said no. I also put her on notice that if she ever talks that way to me again, or her husband does, she will no longer be working for me. She had really overstepped her bounds and I think it was because I had always been so nice. Julie, I don’t mind giving to people and being helpful, but we have to learn when it crosses the line and becomes a drain on our time, our spirit and well being. If someone is insulting me they have crossed that one. If that woman is demanding that you go out of your way to pick up her family dinner and also doesn’t intend to pay you, to me she has crossed way over the line. A big red flag is people who never reciprocate. And people who talk down to you. You can learn to say no. You don’t have to talk down to say no. Just be firm and stand your ground. Peoples feelings may get hurt when you say no but the ones worth holding on to will not resent you if you exercise some self care and say no to things that go against your best interest. Good luck to you!

  24. By: Julie M Posted: 8th April

    Darlene; Reading this was like I had somehow magically written it. In every way it reflected my life, how I feel, and how it hurt me. At this point, it has taken place for so long, I am completely beaten down to where I do not see any light in my future. Between myself and these people-I don’t feel I can walk down the street and make eye contact with anyone. I want to go through life in the shadows so I am not open to anymore.
    At one point in my life, I had a great career, owned my home, raising my two young children alone with no financial help from their father. The kids always had a selection of new clothes for 1st day of school which were added throughout the year, vacations, camping trips etc.. Many many friends in my life. I always gave, gave and gave to everyone, my personal time, money or gifts. If a friend and I were doing “whatever” I always made sure I handed them acouple $20.00 before exciting the car so they could go into “whatever” we were doing with their head high. I volunteered an average of 20 hours weekly for the company I worked for, as an event coordinator. At the holidays, one family I was friends with who struggled, the kids and I would take them a complete Christmas dinner they could make, each family member had a wrapped gift. Never once did I expect anything in return, I didn’t even want a thank you. I just wanted to know they had a wonderful holiday. This same family started asking for something continually. I would get home after 10 hours of work and I would receive a call from the girlfriend asking me to go pickup beer and cigs at the store. It wasn’t just a single call either. One time, she called me asking me if I would go to Taco Bell, 12 miles away. I told her yes, it sounded good for dinner. The kids and I drove down to pick her up and go get dinner. She tells me, I wasn’t going, but would you pick up…she had a large order as there were 4 kids and the two adults. I had to finally ask for the money, “we don’t have any money”. I was floored but walked out door with my kids to Taco Bell. My 8 year old daughter says ” Mom, why do you let them use you, they don’t do anything for you”. I was speechless for awhile. She was exactly correct. Why did I? That statement was one I reflected on daily. NOW that I haven’t workedat eady for several years, this same family who seemed to have forgotten even in their darkest hours, I never, in my wildest dreams, think I had any right to talk down to them in anyway. This same story may not completely repeat itself exactly the same way with my other friends, but the outcome is the same. I amm always afraid of hurting someones feelings or making them feel “less”, I even instilled that you always put yourself in someone else’s shoes, be a true friend and turn the other cheek (I see how big a mistake that was now). I will use your suggestion and ask them the “WHY” questions.

  25. By: Christine Posted: 26th February

    Darlene How I can relate to you so much, You are right, people can take advantage some times and get a kick out off feeling in control of others
    and being nasty. I have been working with some very nasty people how are intimidation,bullying and walked away from it because i thought they were right and I was wrong, but I knew I was right, these people just tried to turn things around to look good.
    In the end I stood up to my believes and had my say and dug my heels in and come up trumps. They were a bit shocked but at lest I am not walked over any more.

    I have learnt that to believe in my self and I do feel better but I will never talk down to people like some do as I am a better person that what they are.

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