In my book, “Don’t Be A Stranger,” I share on the dangers of sarcasm:
“Many people use sarcasm as a vehicle for delivering humor, defending their use of sarcasm as an attractive trait representing intelligence and wit. I see sarcasm very differently. Sarcasm is defined by various online sources as the ‘use of irony to mock or convey contempt.’ Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sarcasm as “sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designedto cut or give pain; satirical wit that has the effect of bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual. Would you still see sarcasm as an attractive quality as defined here? I don’t.
Sarcasm seldom lands in a way that fosters positive relationship-building and can be highly damaging to the foundation of relationships over time. Sarcasm is often a passive-aggressive way of communicating envy or resentment of some quality or behavior in another person. Sarcasm over time can deepen insecurities and tension in relationships, especially when calling attention to qualities that are problematic in a partnership. Some people become defensive when their sarcasm isn’t well-received and invalidate others’ feelings by accusing them of being “too sensitive.” Instead, offer an apology: “I apologize, I realize my sarcasm can be off-putting at times,” then redirect the conversation to a more positive topic Or, you might ask a question to show interest in the other person. If the other person needs to talk about their reactions to your sarcasm and feel heard, please let them.”
What I suspect people may be wanting to defend when defending sarcasm is instead facetious, witty remarks! While sarcasm as described above tends to involve cutting or passive-aggressive, off-putting comments that at times leave others feeling immobilized as to how best to respond, facetious comments tend to be funny without the intent of hurting others. Sarcastic statements can feel sharp, ironic, and hurtful in their delivery, whereas facetious comments is more often experienced as more light-hearted or dry humor.
According to this article online, the word facetious comes from the Latin word “facetus” which means “witty” and from the French word “facetie” which means “jest.” If someone makes a facetious remark, it often lands lightly as opposed to a sarcastic remark which can feel harsh and cruel.
Humor and eliciting laughter are a wonderful way of uplifting others! Afterall, people like people more who make them laugh and feel happy. That said, please be extra careful that your humor does not make the turn into a joke or insinuation at another person’s expense. Thank you for joining me in seizing moments to create kinder, more memorable moments around us.