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Gabby101's avatar

How to deal with "insulting" advice from a colleague?

Asked by Gabby101 (2950points) February 15th, 2015

I work with a person who will give me advice or explain something that would only be helpful to someone who was, well, really stupid.

For example, she wanted to tell me a story, but first she told me “I don’t know if you know this, but the country has been in a recession…”

Once I was half-heartedly picking through the candy at the top of a candy jar while listening to a question someone was asking me and she said “If there’s a candy you want, you could empty the jar and then it would be easier to get.” I’m sorry, but how stupid would I have to be not to know that – a raccoon knows that.

BTW, I don’t think she is being sarcastic or nasty, it seems to me that she just really thinks she is the smartest person in the room.

I never know how to respond because I need to be professional. I feel it’s odd not to respond at all (maybe not?) and am always worried what others will think if I don’t say anything. Will they think I needed that advice or obvious information?

What would be a professional way to respond – ideally, I’m looking for something that lets people know that I am not brain dead and that does not end up making me sound like a dick. Can it be done or is silence the best option?

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36 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

Sounds like she is still learning how to make small talk. Maybe it is just a phase.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Your assessment is right. She thinks she’s the smartest person in the room, and she has to make everyone else think she is too. The “best” way to do that is to make others appear to be stupid. I’ve dealt with that.

When she said, “I don’t know if you know this, but our country is in a recession…” I’d interrupt to say, “Yes, I know.”

When she gave you instructions on the candy I would have said, “Yes, I know. Thank you.”

“Yes, I know. Thank you.” A LOT.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Those are the kind of people that, if you don’t happen to know what they know, then you are stupid. It doesn’t occur to them that they didn’t know what they know until someone taught THEM.

I got to deal with that the other day here. I asked about the T9 texting. I had never used, didn’t understand what it was for. Well, I know what it is now, but not until after being called, basically, technically challenged, old, stupid and so on. Those folks didn’t stop to think that someone explained T9 to them in the past.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Maybe you should leave a copy of “Learning Not to Be Passive-Aggressive” on her desk.

janbb's avatar

You could try the sarcastic approach and say, “No, really?” but I suspect that would be skirting the boundaries of non-professionalism.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Could be construed as antagonistic too….^^^^ Although I like it!

chyna's avatar

I DO know, said with a laugh would sort of put her in her place but still look professional.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I’d go the sarcasm route as well, because I’m a bit bitchy when people annoy me or treat me like I’m stupid.

“What’s this recession you speak of? Please explain using big words so I don’t get confused.”

gailcalled's avatar

Ask a question;

“Do you know that I actually do know that?”

Gabby101's avatar

I do try to use humor, but it makes me a bit crabby, so it mostly comes off as sarcastic, which I find many people consider “not nice.” If I spend an hour with this girl, she will likely give me unneeded information at least twice. Annoying.

tinyfaery's avatar

Sarcasm, baby. Works every time. I’m known for my sarcasm. It’s like my super power. You have to learn how far to go and with whom, but in situations like this, I think it’s the only thing to do. Sarcasm isn’t crabby it’s more of a non-sequitur. I guess you have to be ok with some people not liking you. I’m 100% ok with having an annoying person not like me.

ucme's avatar

Nothing like a good old “no shit sherlock” to put someone in their place.
Said with a wry grin playing across the lips, adds a touch of professionalism.

ragingloli's avatar

Print out this picture and show it to her every time she does it.

Gabby101's avatar

@ragingloli! That picture is hilarious – you made my night!

canidmajor's avatar

Does this person even know that she is doing this? Has anyone mentioned to her that this approach is insulting rather than helpful? She may be used to dealing with people (young children, young students, others) who may actually need this approach. If you gently and firmly (yes, some sarcasm will very likely work here) point out that she is doing this, she may be either embarrassed or offended enough to stop.

ibstubro's avatar

Are you sure that she’s just not incredibly stupid? Perhaps someone had to explain to her that we’ve been in a recession for her to get it.

With the candy, probably the best you could have done was look at her and say, “How could I not know that.” in an otherwise neutral tone. Where it’s both a question and a statement.

I’m with @tinyfaery. I’m 100% okay with annoying people giving me the cold shoulder.

ibstubro's avatar

I mean, you do know that 100% means that I’m totally okay with that, don’t you? ~

tinyfaery's avatar

^^ Hahaha.

trailsillustrated's avatar

Hahaha. I’m blonde and baby faced so I’ve gotten it, alot. ” really..? Oh, please tell me all about it”! Then I continue to dig for the candy I want. The eye roll . ’ something in your eye?’ ’ what’s wrong with your eyes’? The obvious. ” oh, do you mean…. They end up running away wishing they had said nothing hahahaha.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, is she normally around people who do lack intelligence? I only ask because she might have to explain the obvious to some people she interacts with. She perhaps doesn’t realise how condescending her behaviour is to others.

Or she might just be rude and annoying and then sarcasm would be my preferred weapon in response.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

The way to deal with it is to flash a huge yet fake smile and say in a sugar sweet yet ironic tone ” Thanks for the info and update dear!” And then walk off. Keep your distance. She should get the message.

dabbler's avatar

This kind of sarcasm usually indicates an underlying insecurity, they just have to let you know that on that little bitty point they won, even though you didn’t know you were competing.
You might as well either ignore the answer or dismiss it with “You win! Whatever it was you were battling over.” i.e. “who cares?”

jca's avatar

I would probably be tempted to go with the very sarcastic answer, but a better tactic might be just to ignore her and let her words fall on thin air.

keobooks's avatar

My guess is that she has no idea how condescending she sounds. I’m also betting that she’s insecure and doesn’t know when to stop talking, so she over-talks and starts saying stupidly obvious things.

I don’t see how what she says is all that insulting. Annoying—yes. But insulting? That’s a bit much.

jca's avatar

I think the “insulting” aspect is that she feels it needs to be said because she thinks the OP doesn’t know these things. That, to me, would be insulting. (I’m older than 15 and you think I don’t know _______?”)

ibstubro's avatar

@keobooks has a great point in that there are insecure people that, once they start talking, are afraid to stop, lest they be totally ignored. Basically, it’s a self fulfilling prophesy.

As example, I know a guy that’s highly intelligent and knows “everything” about history. He’s also shy, short, plump, effeminate, and refuses to make eye contact. Sad to say, easily dismissed in other words. As a response, I swear he’s learned to talk while breathing in. He’s learned instinctively over the years that any, pause, any break in his patter and people will turn [run] away. He’s adopted a pattern of speech where he can talk 5–10 minutes without pause. All it does is make people shy away from him even more, which make him even more desperate to talk…etc. etc.

Maybe she’s just so desperate for attention she’ll say any inane thing to get and hold people’s attention. If that turns out to be the case, you can probably be lightly, humorously sarcastic without hurting her feelings. As long as she has the limelight.

“Then why do you put the candy in a jar, dear?”

keobooks's avatar

I guess I’m used to being around people with extremely poor social and communication skills that stuff like that doesn’t insult me. It says more about them than me. They usually aren’t really thinking when they talk. And likely, they do it to everyone around them all the time about everything. if they ONLY did it to me and a few others, I’d be insulted.

I remember one guy showing me a picture of the world’s largest statue of a chicken. The thing was like two stories tall. He told me very earnestly “Don’t worry. It’s not a real chicken.” I just laughed.

I’ve also been around kindergarten teachers who were ALWAYS in “kindergarten mode” and they would ALWAYS talk in this sing-songy baby talk voice. I didn’t find it insulting since they did it all the time to everyone.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah, I love running into Kindergarten teachers at Walmart! It’s like, “We’re grown ups here! You can talk normally now!”

Let us know how it goes. Just go with what you’re comfortable with. If you’re comfortable with sarcasm, go with that. If you’re comfortable with over-politeness, go with that. Whatever works for you.

snowberry's avatar

I’m fond of “Thank you! I’ll take it under advisement.” And say it over and over and over.

Dutchess_III's avatar

And over. And over.

Adagio's avatar

Perhaps the comment about the candy jar was her tactful way of saying she didn’t appreciate eating candy that has been handled/touched by the hands of others’. And I would have to agree.

ibstubro's avatar

Wrapped candies, I’d guessed?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I doubt it @Adagio. Even if she dumped it out she’d still have to move candy around to get to what she wanted. If it was really a concern her co-worker just have nothing to do with a communal candy jar. (Unlike me.)

ibstubro's avatar

Some people just feel compelled to talk. As much as possible. Could it be that once she has someone’s attention she holds it by saying anything, anything at all?
This is just a spin on my previous answer, but I know a number of people that, once given the floor, will say nearly any inanity just to remain the center of attention. It’s insecurity.
It drive me to distraction.
I make an obvious point of avoiding them. Even if their feeling are a little hurt at the outset, they get over it quickly because it’s a way of life for them.

Gabby101's avatar

@adagio, see that’s insulting. Your assumption is that I would dig through a jar of unwrapped food expecting everyone after me to eat germy, nasty candy. I’m kind of kidding, because that particular comment didn’t offend me, but it is that assumption of ignorance that can often get my goat.

@keobooks, you’re a saint if you can keep your composure upon being told that an obvious statue of a chicken is not real!!

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