Posted by: Anne | April 20, 2013

spring cleaning: scrub the sarcasm

When you’re talking with someone and they suddenly lob a sarcastic comment, how do you respond? Do you consider their point and say a sincere, “Thank you for that insight! I can tell that you’ve given this matter a lot of thought, and I appreciate you enlightening me”?

Yeah, neither do I. Typically, I write the person off as a jerk and instantly lose the desire to continue communicating with him or her.

Years ago, I read an article about the dos and don’ts of email, and it suggested, “Avoid sarcasm. You’ll think you’re being clever, but your reader will be put off.” I’d say that’s a good assessment of it. Certainly, I feel oh-so-clever when I think of a sarcastic barb that I could launch. But more and more I consider how “put off” I am by others’ sarcasm, and I opt not to go that route.

One of the fundamental principles of human behavior is that people ultimately respond better to positive consequences than to negative consequences. Sarcasm is considered a negative consequence.

It should be the goal of every teacher to interact in a positive way with students and foster mutual respect. Whether you speak sarcastically about an individual or the class as a whole, destroys a positive classroom environment and may prompt students to lash out with inappropriate comments of their own. The use of sarcasm suggests that you, as the teacher, do not know any better way of interacting and sets the stage for similar negative interactions between students themselves.

The above article advises avoiding sarcasm in a classroom setting, but I submit that we would do well to avoid it altogether.

“People who shrug off deliberate deceptions, saying, ‘I didn’t mean it, I was only joking,’ Are worse than careless campers who walk away from smoldering campfires.”
– Proverbs 26:18-19 (The Message)

At best, sarcasm is pointless. It “puts people off,” bringing real communication to a standstill.

At worst, it damages relationships to the breaking point. Basically…

Sarcasm Hurts and Offends. Though it’s often camouflaged as humor, sarcasm is really just a convenient way for people to express hurt feelings, criticize others, or disapprove of some action without actually coming out and saying what’s on their minds.

Avoid sarcasm. Show respect. Be real with people – and see how much more rewarding it can be.


Sources and See Also’s

~ Classroom Management: Avoiding Sarcasm

~ The Damaging Effects of Sarcasm

~ Psychology of Sarcasm – Dealing With Sarcastic People

~ How to Deal With a Sarcastic Person

~ What Does Being Sarcastic Say About You?

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