banner
Family

Is your sarcasm a problem?

Posted September 14

Question:

My older brother can be really sarcastic not only to me but to his wife and children. The last argument we had was about a sarcastic remark he made about me and how it feels like a passive aggressive way to say what he really feels without getting in trouble for being mean, yet he is mean. How can I get him to see how he is hurting the people close to him with this sarcasm and how can I get him to correct his behavior without making him even angrier at me?

Answer:

Send him an email filled with positive validation about what a good person he is and how much you love him, but include at the bottom a question: “If it comes from a place of love for you, would you be open to some practical advice about sarcasm? I found this article, which might help you build better relationships, but if you aren’t open to any advice, you don’t have to read it. Just know it comes without judgment, because we all have some flaws. I have lots. Just thought it was interesting.”

Then copy and paste the rest of this article from here down. Once he understands why he is sarcastic, he may be more motivated to change it.

The dictionary defines sarcasm as “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt; a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark.” Sarcastic comments, though humorous, are usually passive-aggressive, mean and really uncomfortable for the people receiving them.

If you use sarcasm you must ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What am I trying to accomplish with my communication?
  2. What kind of relationships do I want?
  3. Do I need to be funny and make myself laugh at the expense of other people? Or do I want to build relationships of trust?
  4. Do I care how other people feel? Or am I only really interested in entertaining myself?
Sarcastic people often think teasing is a form of tough love and that people should be able to handle it. They may also think saying “just kidding” after a sarcastic remark makes it OK, even if it was hurtful. They usually see themselves as funny people, even if they are the only ones laughing.

Here are some common reasons you might be sarcastic. See if any of these resonate with you:

1. You fear you aren’t good enough, so you subconsciously need to put others down so you can feel superior. The worse you feel about yourself the more biting your remarks toward others could be. Insecure people have to put others down or tease them, in order to feel important and of value themselves. If this is your issue you may need some professional help to improve your self-worth. If you felt better about yourself you wouldn’t need to make fun of others.

2. Sarcasm is also a way of asking for what you want when you are scared to ask for it directly. You might crack a joke about your wife’s crazy shoes because you don’t know how to say you don’t like them in a nicer way. Your sarcastic remark doesn’t work though because it leaves your wife unsure about what you really think. Were you joking or serious? If you don’t know how to say things in a way that won’t hurt, you make a joke, which usually still hurts, but creates a situation where if she takes offense, it’s her problem if she can’t take the joke. If this is your way to use sarcasm, you really need to improve and learn some better communication skills.

3. Sarcasm may be passive-aggressive anger. This happens because you feel taken from, insulted or annoyed by other people and taking a jab at them makes you feel better. Sarcasm is a clever way to take a jab without being seen as outright mean. A joke can absolve you of responsibility for how you made the other person feel. If this is your issue, you need to learn how to resolve the real issues you are angry about. You could really benefit from some coaching or counseling on processing emotions.

4. You may feel jealous or angry at life for the disappointments or abuse you have suffered. Sarcasm can be a clever way to take out your anger toward life or vent your frustrations. The more life does you wrong, the more biting your remarks toward others might be. If this is your issue, you need to learn how to use your life experiences to make you better, not bitter.

5. If you were teased in a cruel way, put down or made to feel inferior as a child, you may be subconsciously trying to get the upper hand now. You may look down on others and jokingly strike out at them as a way to feel powerful. Again, you may need some help to improve your self-esteem so you can show up with love and let the pain from your past go.

6. You like to get attention by entertaining those around you with humor. You probably need this attention to validate your worth, because you again, have fear you aren’t good enough. You need this attention so badly you will do it at the expense of other people. All fear creates subconsciously selfish behavior, but this can be fixed. There are lots of ways to learn to be funny without being hurtful.

7. You may have a psychological inclination that is just prone to mean sarcasm. You may want to find out what your personal psychological inclination is. Some PI types are more prone to sarcasm and biting comments than others. You can find out more about your PI and what that says about you on my website.

Just take a minute, if you are the sarcastic person, and honestly ask yourself if any of these issues could be behind your sarcastic comments and is this who you really want to be?

You may need to practice THINK before you speak (a good idea for all of us). This means checking yourself before you make a comment. Is it:

True,

Helpful,

Inspiring,

Necessary and

Kind.

You can be funny all you want, but if you do it at the expense of other people, they will not feel safe with you or like you, and if the people on the receiving end of your sarcasm are your friends or family, this cost could be high.

My best advice to you is slow down and pause before saying anything. Think about why you want to say (what you are about to say). Is it love motivated? Does it really need to be said? You may want to create a reminder to avoid sarcasm and make it the wallpaper on your phone. That way you see it 500 times a day to remind you to think first.

If you are living with a sarcastic person, here are a couple suggestions for dealing with it:

  1. Get a rock-solid self-esteem yourself. Remember that your value is absolute and no comment can diminish your value. You have the ability to let all hurtful comments bounce off you if you choose to be bulletproof. Negative comments are just words. They have no power and don’t mean anything unless you give them power.
  2. Ignore their comments. This means denying them any attention for their comments. Pretend you didn’t even hear it. Go about your business with peace, love and confidence. When they quit getting a reaction from you, it won’t be as fun to tease you.
  3. Treat every sarcastic remark as literal. Not seeing the humor will take the fun out of it and without humor their comments will just look mean. Ask them straight out if their comment was meant to make you feel small? Or to make them look clever, funny or humble? Tell them you just want to understand what they really meant.
  4. Talk about it. Have a mutually validating conversation about your relationship. (I explain exactly how to do this in a worksheet on my website). It involves first seeing them as the same as you (not as a bad, mean person) and then asking a lot of questions about how they feel. Ask if they care about the quality of the relationship? What kind of relationship do they want to have? Are they open to hearing how their sarcastic comments make you feel? Would they be willing to cut the sarcasm in favor of a better relationship moving forward?
Changing the way you communicate is hard and takes time and practice, because your autopilot, subconscious programming usually starts talking before it starts thinking. Changing this programming takes a high level of mindfulness and a lot of practice, but you can do it. Since communication is at the heart of all your relationships and your relationships are the main factor in your happiness and success in life — working at this is worth the effort.

You can do this.

Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.

Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all