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Many of us have been the brunt of sarcasm from ‘supposedly’ quick-witted people who think they are very clever and funny. But are they funny?

What is sarcasm exactly?

Some might say sarcasm is just a bit of fun. But is it really? There’s wit, there’s playful teasing, and then there’s sarcasm – the use of irony to mock or convey contempt. Wit is funny, playful teasing is a friendly joke, but sarcasm is plain mean, especially when it’s directed towards you. It feels cruel and hurtful. Remember the old saying, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Enough said, right!  

Then why, and where does it come from?

So why are people sarcastic towards others? Why be so insensitive?

If you use sarcasm, you might think about why you use it. Is it a way of protecting yourself? Are you masking feelings of inadequacy? Does it make you feel superior? Are you seeking attention? Or is it plain lack of empathy? Having considered those questions, do you still think you’re clever and funny? If not, then ask yourself, what are you really trying to say?

What’s your response?

When sarcasm is directed towards me, it stings, and as much as I would like to respond, in that moment I am usually so dumfounded that I say nothing. Which means I always walk away with the energy of it still attached.

But the other day, I did the opposite. Without thinking, I responded instantly. Clearly and firmly, I blurted out exactly how I felt. I said, ‘I find that offensive’, and then immediately dismissed further comments with the words, ‘and I’ll leave it there’. If you were to ask me what the sarcastic remark was, I honestly can’t remember because my response was akin to a swift axe – it cut the energy so precisely, that the conversation immediately changed, and the sarcasm became meaningless. The timing was so perfect I could almost hear cheering from above.

There’s lots of advice out there about how to deal with sarcasm, but having experienced my spontaneous response, my advice is to dismiss the remark by saying honestly how you feel in the moment. If it doesn’t feel nice, say it. If you don’t accept it, say it. If you don’t like it, say it. If it’s not true, say it. If you think it’s mean, say it. Be honest. There’s a lot of power in owning how you feel.

Because the comment directed towards me was both untrue and unkind, I felt offended, and that’s what I said. We went on to spend another hour chatting happily together in mixed company, though interestingly, later the topic of sarcasm came up – clearly it was festering in the background. Everyone agreed it came from a sharp mind, but that it was also downright mean and not fun to be on the receiving end.

The bottom line

So the truth is, people do know what they are doing.

Words have an energy – use them kindly. If you’re the brunt of sarcasm, use them to cut the negative energy. And if you like to use sarcasm and direct it towards another individual, stop it! It’s a bad habit. It says much more about you than the person you are directing it towards. You’re being a smartarse, and no one likes a smartarse.

Inara Hawley © 2021