Snark Alert! Sarcasm Stings
March 4, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Fatherhood, Parenting, Relationships, Teens · Permalink


This post from Straight Talk On Relationships reminds us that our tone and general attitude toward our partner influences the relationship greatly. Often times what we think is ‘all in good fun’, really puts a rift in the communication.


By Lisa Merlo Booth

Lately I’ve been seeing the effects of sarcasm everywhere.  Whether it’s watching my own family, my friends’ families or the families of my clients, sarcasm still has that same familiar sting.  Sarcasm comes from the Greek word sarkasmos or sarkazein, which means to tear flesh, or to bite the lips in rage.

The purpose of sarcasm is to mock others.  The better the cut-down, the funnier we think it is.  Sarcasm hurts because it is meant to hurt.

Sarcasm is often an unspoken truth, judgment or resentment wrapped up as a joke.  We throw out a comment and then follow it up with a smile or a chuckle and think that’s okay.  It’s just a little joke.  Unfortunately, the smile or chuckle does not soften the sting.

Regardless of whether it’s an older brother greeting his little sister with “Hey mighty mouth,” a friend saying “Nice of you to show up on your time frame,” or a cousin chiding another cousin with “You always could eat. couldn’t you,” sarcasm is often a caustic attempt at humor.

Sarcasm has become a way for many people and families to connect.  They learn to constantly rib each other as a way of communicating.  They think when the ribbing hurts, it must be because the target is too sensitive.  Seldom do we actually think that the person is hurt because of what we said.  It must be, we think, because they don’t know how to take a joke.

Not surprisingly however, sarcasm is often funniest to the person who’s speaking it.  Typically it’s not nearly as funny to those on the receiving end. Unfortunately, when (and if) those on the receiving end try to stand up for themselves, the speakers tell them they can’t take a joke.  The target then begins to question themselves and try their best to ignore the sting.

When it comes to sarcasm and teasing, however, the rules to follow are simple;
•    If it stings—it’s not funny
•    Just because you say it with a smile and a chuckle, doesn’t mean it’s funny or it doesn’t hurt
•    If the person on the receiving end says they don’t like it or it hurts, then stop it—it hurts.

I love a great sense of humor and would never tell people to stop being playful.  Just make sure that when you’re using humor, it’s not at someone else’s expense.  That takes the humor out of it.

CHALLENGE:  Watch sarcasm in the world.  Pay attention to all the “jokes” at others’ expense and see if you can catch the underbelly or sarcasm.  If someone in your life doesn’t like your teasing or sarcasm, stop dismissing what they’re saying and LISTEN.  Be playful—not hurtful.  NOTE:  the person on the receiving end is the judge of whether or not what you said is hurtful—not you.

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  1. Michael
    March 8th, 2010 | 12:34 pm

    Well posted! Well Put! And Not Well Intentioned on the part of the Sarcasanist (if there is such a word)!

    Is the Sarcasanist displaying a degree of insecurity? How does a victim / subject of sarcasm respond without enganging in the game but trying to affect change with the Sarcasanist? How do we help our children not play the sarcastic game?

  2. Greg Holch
    March 11th, 2010 | 1:18 pm

    And teasing is the same thing. When I was growing up, my father used to tease a friend of my sister’s. It used to sound funny to me until she finally stood up to him and demanded that he stop it. I think there is an element of meanneass in all teasing, even when we think it’s just good natured kidding around.

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