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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sarcasm: Acerbic Venom

Sarcasm is a problem.

Admit it.
Don't admit it.
It's always your choice.

I don't know why people protect sarcasm so much. Some people will go out of their way to protect sarcasm, to try to claim that sarcasm is the height of wit. But it can also be extremely biting, it can also be a screen behind which anger and scorn hides.

This country seems to hide its own anger; few people even know how to identify anger, let alone how to name it, how to handle it. Most people deny their anger as though it was a crime or a defect of some kind. It seems a great deal of pain could be avoided if anger wasn't something hidden, avoided, even feared. 

We are told Be Nice, Be Civil. So, in an absence of skills for handling anger many people bottle it up as though their anger is a forbidden thought or a disreputable relative living in the basement.

The fact is that anger is a perfectly normal and, indeed, healthy human emotion, typically a response to a hurtful or unfair situation. Sarcasm surfaces in instances of passive-aggressive expression of disgust, criticism, etc. As Oscar Wilde expressed Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence. Don't confuse sarcasm with intelligence! And I would take it several steps further, sarcasm is nothing more than hidden and distorted anger, derision, or criticism.

People love to point to several recent stories that suggest that sarcasm is a sign of intelligence. But they are getting the study and its conclusions mixed up. Intelligent people can detect sarcasm, nothing about the superiority of the capacity to spew it.

We can acknowledge that there are many different forms of sarcasm, from friendly mockery to outright ridicule and censure. Truth becomes skewed, authenticity is completely absent, connection is dependent upon similar points of view, affinity is the casualty of sarcasm. Sarcasm can be hostility or insecurity disguised as humor. 

I was just kidding.

If you are on the receiving end of sarcasm you may have become a sarcasm junkie yourself. Either way I suggest these things:
  • Avoid speaking with a sarcastic tone any time clarity is necessary in communication.
  • Couch all efforts at sarcasm in warm, respectful friendship in order to make it clear where it fits in the relationship.
    If efforts of sarcasm fall flat, avoid it in the future.
  • If there is the slightest bit of conflict in the room,
    avoid all sarcasm.
  • Avoid using sarcasm any time a relationship is functioning with ongoing tension, unresolved pain, uncertainty of any kind.
  • Remember, if there is any conflict going on in the room,
    sharp-tongued wit comes off looking more sharp-tongued
    than witty.
  • Appreciate that some people are not ready or able to accept sarcasm in conversations at certain times.
    Respect their right to prefer respect and kindness.
  • Using less sarcasm actively requires more processing of thoughts and feelings and can result in a much happier person.
  • Speak up and tell the sarcastic person in your life that you no longer want to be bullied by their sarcastic language and that you prefer sarcasm-free conversations.
    Create your own Sarcasm-Free-Zone.

Less Sarcasm

Whether you are the sarcasm junkie or the person on the receiving end, acknowledge that sarcasm is harsh speech. Far better off eliminating it from your conversations indefinitely, improve self confidence and all of your relationships.

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