Sarcasm: Funny or Mean?



A friend on Facebook was having a hard time dealing with sarcasm. Did the person who wrote on their wall mean to be funny or did they just disguise a put down under the guise of humor?

There are people who are truly able to see the humor in sarcasm, in giving and receiving it. Not me. I am not a fan of sarcasm. In my experience, personally and in my work, sarcasm is almost always passive-aggressive. A quick example…

“My wife critical? Heck no. She’s a saint. It’s just that I can’t even pick up my underwear right,” he says with a smirk.

“Wait a minute!” she protests.  “I never asked you to pick up your underwear.”

“Geez. It’s just a joke. Lighten up!”

If she laughs along with him she appears to be agreeing with his criticism, accepting that she is a bitch. If she doesn’t she’s Debbie Downer, without a sense of humor. That’s the trap of being on the receiving end of sarcasm.

Why is sarcasm so hard to recognize and what can we do to break the sarcastic habit?

When we communicate, there are [at least] two things going on. First, the person sending the message has intent, but the person listening is also an active part of the process. The listener interprets what he or she has heard based upon past experiences and past scripts. I tell my students it doesn’t really matter what your intent is in the message, the listener is always going to interpret what YOU say based upon these scripts/experiences (with you and with others).

Uh-Oh. Now what?

BE CLEAR. BE HONEST. BE OPEN to explanation.

~Kristen Brandon, Associate Professor, MSU Mankato

2 comments


  • K

    Well you’re just tons of fun.

    ;)

    2011/03/25

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