The Psychology Behind Belittling Others(A Complete Guide)

This article will look at what it means to belittle someone and what intentions, motives or desires back up such a type of behavior where people adopt condescending attitudes to put others down and make them feel less.

The Psychology Behind Belittling Others – Why? 

There are a number of reasons as to why someone may belittle others such as:

  • To Discriminate
  • Insecurities
  • Avoiding The Real Issues
  • Dislike You
  • Feel Threatened

Before we look at these reasons, let us study what psychology is and why it plays an important role in understanding why people belittle those around them. The article will focus on how psychology helps explain the behavior and motivations of those who belittle others while at the same time looking at the above reasons which will help the audience develop a deeper understanding.

Psychology – The Mind, Body & Soul

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behavior especially with regards to areas such as development, social, cognitive and emotional processes. It also studies the aforementioned with regards to sports, education and clinical applications.

What psychology aims to do is to first describe human behavior based on methods such as observation. It also wants to explain human behavior keeping in mind internal and external factors that could play a big role in determining a behavioral outcome. However, the main focus is on predicting and controlling human behavior hence the first two aims support the last two we just mentioned.

This discipline also examines our conscious and unconscious mind. The conscious mind includes all that we are aware of whereas our unconscious mind holds our inner and unknown or unrealized motivations, desires and feelings and thoughts.

It is necessary to mention that a lot of focus is given to the area of not only behavior but also thoughts and emotions. The branches of psychology attempt to explain what emotions are using different theories nonetheless describing emotions as a series of physiological events which occur in a certain context. Many treatments such as cognitive therapy are based on understanding and molding one’s thoughts. When behaviour is introduced into the picture for further improvement, this type of treatment comes under cognitive behavioral therapy.

The main aim of psychology is to understand and explain human behavior so that we can predict and control it for the greater good. Psychology is that branch of science that allows us to understand why someone would belittle others. It will highlight what motivates their behavior and affects their thoughts and feelings that eventually leads them to resort to such degrading or passive aggressive thoughts.

Why Do People Belittle Others?

In this section we will look at reasons as to why someone would put down or belittle another person. The section will point out 5 reasons that are based on an individual’s intentions which could be neutral or quite so negative!

To Discriminate

A good reason as to why someone would belittle others is because they want to discriminate against them and make them feel they do not belong here. There are countless examples of this in real life. 

You might go to an expensive shop wearing something extremely casual because of which you stand out in a bad way. The attendant in the shop may examine you and assume that you are not able to afford the products here based on very little information that is. Hence, they may utter remarks such as ‘you won’t find anything here’ or ‘you should look for something in the store next door’! They are actually trying to say you can’t afford things here so please leave! They won’t say it directly but engage in passive aggressive remarks that are actually meant to convey a certain message – in a rude manner that is!

Although this may not necessarily mean the person dislikes you or wants to put you down, it is a rude way of trying to deal with people someone considers a waste of time or effort. Hence even for such a purpose such remarks are not appropriate and people should adopt a more straightforward and nice approach when it comes to dealing with others.


Yes someone may belittle you because not only do they want to feel superior but they are also insecure because of you. They are afraid you are better than them at a certain skill or area in life and hence tell you the opposite of what they fear – to put you down of course!

Like other feelings and behaviors at the workplace, this is also a common one mostly because behavior is motivated by reward and punishment. If people perform better than others they will definitely get a reward in the form of recognition, a promotion or a bonus.

Hence, to make themselves feel as if they are in a better position than others, these individuals resort to belittling others with regards to their work! They will tell them that the presentation they made is very basic or that they take too much time doing their tasks. If they recently received a reward they will whisper into their ears that getting that reward was more of a sympathy move rather than something actually based on their performance.

Avoiding The Real Reason

A person may be afraid of you! They fear you will catch on to the loopholes in their stories or their work. Hence to put some distance between the both of you they adopt a non-likeable attitude where they constantly belittle you! The purpose of this is to keep you away from them. If you try to get close to them for the sake of asking questions or finding out why something went wrong, they will resort to their typical attitude of belittling you and passing negative remarks to get you off their back!

Be watchful of such people! Not only are they adopting a condescending attitude but they may be hiding something important which you need to expose. They might be meddling with work affairs or taking part in something illegal because of which they do not want you around!

This is extremely important to take note of in the workplace because as we mentioned before the toxic coworker may be hiding something! This is why they resort to belittling you whenever you approach them so they don’t have to deal with the issue at hand!

Dislike You

Yes this is one of the common reasons why someone would belittle you. They probably are jealous because of something you have that they don’t. Or they could just dislike you as a person; how you talk, walk or conduct yourself may irritate them! Hence, they want to make you feel bad and awful so they resort to passing comments about the poor quality of your work, how ugly you are, your short height and overweight body and not to mention how left behind you are in your career – they will use anything against you!

Feel Threatened

It is possible that the person who belittles you actually perceives you as a threat that they want to diminish or eradicate! They may consider you a threat due to a number of reasons such as your skills, educational qualification, interpersonal skills, physique or looks or even your experience in your career life. Nonetheless, they will try their best to make you feel inferior so that you no longer possess the potential to ‘harm’ them in any way.

It is not that they do not like you but they are fearful that you may take away opportunities from their hands. For example, a fellow coworker may be afraid that their boss offers you the promotion that they have been working for so hard. Hence, to push you off track and possibly hamper your efforts and affect your work, they will start belittling you. Their aim is to make you doubt yourself and underperform. It is possible they want you gone entirely from the scene!

A fellow coworker may hence be out to get you because they think you might perform better than they do and get the credit. So before that happens they will try and make you feel bad about yourself by passing belittling remarks – they can’t do much but talk down to you.


This article looked at reasons why someone would belittle others around them by citing reasons such as disliking you, discriminating against you and because they feel threatened by you. The article included reasons other than these as well. It also discussed the psychology behind such behaviours by pointing out what psychology is and how it helps in understanding human behaviour by studying various areas such as the unconscious, emotions, thoughts, feelings and inner motivations.


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