How do you deal with condescending arguments when arguing with colleagues? I mean with arguments like:

"In my N years experience ... you will learn when you get that experience ..."

"Let me teach you what code reuse is ... [some common facts]"

"We are all not very professional in [something], don't worry."

Keeping your mouth shut, not doing the same thing, but for how long? Addressing the manager is not an option. We are talking about people with similar length of experience in the team.

How do you address such condescending arguments? What is a good way to say "just stick to the code review, etc.".


What are the close votes about? There are multiple answers and comments?

  • 3
    What is the context of these arguments? What exactly are you arguing about?
    – sf02
    Jun 16 '20 at 15:34
  • @sf02 commenting code, we have discussions on code quality and similar topics and all of us are having years of experience.
    – Bor
    Jun 17 '20 at 6:05
  • 2
    So essentially a code review. Jun 19 '20 at 6:34

Firmly, politely, respectfully, correct your colleague when colleague condescends. Don't back down, but don't be rude or aggressive.

"I appreciate your input, but they way you condescend to me is disrespectful. I understand more than you credit me for."

"I appreciate your assistance, but it would go much further if you were less condescending. It's disrespectful. I know a lot more than you acknowledge."

"Stop. Please show me more respect than that...."

BTW, you/colleague/everyone could benefit from reading "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie.

  • 2
    That's sth that can be done in private life. In the work life this can misfire quickly. Also, phrases like "I know a lot more than you acknowledge" sound defensive.
    – BigMadAndy
    Jun 19 '20 at 5:05
  • If I reviewed code and found it so lacking in code reuse that I think I need to explain the nature of code reuse again, a sentence like you suggested would make me go to my boss and ask why we hired that clown in the first place. Nothing in what's written is in any way disrespectful, assuming it's true. If it's not true, then that perception needs to be fixed, but it's still not disrespectful to be wrong.
    – nvoigt
    Jun 19 '20 at 8:22
  • I wouldn't try to explain "code reuse". I'd say something like "this code was already used in two places, which wasn't perfect, but know you added a third copy. Could you put it all into one method that you call three times?"
    – gnasher729
    Jun 19 '20 at 23:35
  • "How to win friends" is excellent if you are a genuinely honest, decent person and believe yourself what he writes, or if you are a master manipulator. But if you try to use it to manipulate people and you are not brilliant at it, people will find out quickly and it will totally backfire.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 19 '20 at 23:38
  • @nvoigt have you called any colleague "that clown" ?
    – Bor
    Jun 22 '20 at 5:36

The real question is what sort of context were these questions being asked in?

"In my N years experience ... you will learn when you get that experience ..."

This sounds like something where you made a mistake and the person is giving advice that you will eventually catch on before allowing said error to happen.

"Let me teach you what code reuse is ... [some common facts]"

Sounds like you may have either questioned or not shown how to reuse some particular code. That or you may have done something incorrectly. Perhaps you could have taken the advice above and prior to this happening ask if you can do a code review and inquire about how to properly reuse the code block.

"We are all not very professional in [something], don't worry."

Sounds like you may have had an outburst of some sort and they are forgiving you for that. In my opinion it sounds like they are letting you off the hook this one time.

My thought is that in each of these items, it sounds like you removed the situation and assumed something negative about the way they are speaking. In the future I recommend listening to people's advice, and determine how it applies to your current situation, then if it doesn't just ignore it. That's something you get with... "N years experience and you'll learn when you get that experience..."

  • let me explain to you what I mean, you don't get the point. Don't worry, you are relatively new here. How does this sound like?
    – Bor
    Jun 17 '20 at 5:52
  • @Bor yet another attempt to explain something to you the person tried to explain earlier already cutting some discussion short where you might have run off in the wrong direction from their point of view, but them being patient and knowing that their local ruleset/domain process might be a bit complicated, require domain knowledge or just be quite unusual. While the interpretation can depend on the tone, the fact that they explicitly state 'don't worry, you are new here' is actually trying to avoid an implication that you are not intelligent enough but that this just happens to newbies. Jun 19 '20 at 6:08
  • 1
    @Bor It's always difficult to take criticism, especially if you perceive yourself equal or above the person you're getting it from. I don't necessarily think you're wrong, but I do think you should stop for a second and attempt to analyse the situation. No one here can say for sure what is going on, but one thing I can say is if EVERYONE is saying the same thing, even people you never worked with prior and that is their comment, then either you have the worst luck or there is something you're doing wrong.
    – Dan
    Jun 22 '20 at 17:07

Demonstrate by your performance to everybody that they are wrong. But be aware that they may be right. I don't think that referring to the experience is condescending. I do that to cheer up my younger colleagues after they see my solution to some problem and I realize that it the ease in which i write it down embarrasses them.

(Basically i am programming longer than these colleagues have been born, so yes, things which they need to think about I know by heart)


Based on my own experience, I'd recommend humour whenever possible. Perhaps while they're talking you through something, throw in a few puns. Also ask some comically nonsense questions with a straight face and in a voice of exaggerated concern (I don't know... something utterly random like "yeah, I see what you mean, but if I do refactor like that, is there a risk my shoes will fall off?").

You may also like to recognise in the privacy of your own mind that your colleagues may have their own feelings of inadequacy and showing you "how to do things better" may be a way of dealing with those feelings for a while. It may not seem it, but they may actually be slightly intimidated by you. Silently bless them while they're sharing their view of the world with you.

Be the one to big them up in meetings (eg. in the daily Scrum if you do those) where it doesn't seem unnatural to do so, even if the actual help they've given you is minimal to none. I've found that being genuinely grateful for their time not only makes you a more patient person, but in time, you may find they don't feel the need to keep "advising" you all the time.

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