Sarcasm: “You can carry it yourself. Your arms aren’t broken.”

"Dauntless" Lope's Hope by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

Sarcastic people often hide behind the excuse of “I was just being funny.” Humor makes people laugh, but sarcasm does not.

The word comes from the Greek “sarkasmos” meaning “to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, and speak bitterly.” Sarcasm signifies “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.” Contempt communicates the feeling that the other is unworthy of respect. It’s no longer so funny when someone treats you as though you are unworthy of respect.

People often use sarcasm because they have been treated poorly themselves, which creates a desire to retaliate by making other people feel foolish. Thus, the miserable cycle of biting cynicism fuels itself.

Sarcastic people have often been taught to feel uncomfortable talking about such unmanly things as feelings, needs and desires—e.g., being tired, overwhelmed, sad, angry, etc. They expect or hope that others will know what they feel and need.

Ironically, when we avoid expressing our vulnerabilities, it can lead to a subversive upwelling of those vulnerabilities. When they’re not expressed in a straight-forward manner, they simmer below the surface and erupt in a hurtful way.

Instead of saying “Are your arms broken?” it’s much more effective to state why you don’t want to carry something or otherwise undertake the task at hand. Here are some ideas of what you could say without attacking the other person:

“Sorry, I’m too tired. I’ve worked a lot today,”
“I’ve got my hands full,”
“I think you can handle it,”
“I would like it if you contributed a little more,” or
“I’d like to go relax and reread ‘Where the Wild things Are.’”

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Contempt: ‘Don’t look at me that way.'”

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