The Damaging Effects of Sarcasm

As I went about my normal routines the past few weeks, I listened closely for some attention-grabbing examples of sarcasm to include in today’s lesson. I was dismayed at the amount of sarcasm I heard.

When I began to intentionally evaluate the damaging effects of sarcasm, I was utterly shocked at how inappropriate, culturally offensive, and downright cruel most of the sarcastic, off-the-cuff remarks turned out to be.  A few decades ago, they were called cut-lows—what a fitting label.

This experience only reinforced my belief that sarcasm doesn’t belong in our interactions with one another.

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.

Television sitcoms are loaded with sarcastic remarks and, of course, the viewers laugh at the embarrassment the recipient shows.  Don’t be fooled that these are merely clever sayings from quick-witted individuals. Television writers think they are entertaining the audience, but they are really setting an example for viewers to follow. Our children grow up believing this is socially acceptable.

These sharp, cutting remarks are given with the intent to wound or embarrass.  Sarcasm is hurtful to others. At the very least, it’s got tremendous potential to be misunderstood since there is always a ‘hidden message’ involved. I urge you to consider today whether it’s worth risking alienating another person in the interest of getting a laugh.

When you resort to sarcasm to get a point across in a disguised manner, it demonstrates a lack of conviction and courage to say what you really mean. Although an occasional sarcastic remark may seem harmless, remember that people judge your character every day by what you say as well as how you act. The collective result of those judgments is your reputation.

Break the Habit

My challenge to you is this, and I don’t extend it lightly: will you commit to eliminating sarcasm altogether, in all areas of your life? At home, with friends, at school, at work, and everywhere in between?

I won’t sugarcoat it; sarcastic speech is a very difficult habit to break once it has become a part of your communication style. And it’s especially tough if the people around you thrive on the temptation of ‘one-upping’ each other when it comes to sarcastic comments. The truth is sarcasm breeds sarcasm. It’s just that simple.

With that said, please don’t let this intimidate you or stop you from trying! Here are a few ideas to help you break free from the bad habit of sarcasm:

  • Keep a mental or written list of the reactions and consequences you notice when those around you are the target of sarcasm. This awareness alone will be a powerful motivator to change your own behavior.
  • Think before you speak. Considering how your words will be received is a very effective way to monitor your speech.
  • Enlist a trusted friend or partner who is willing to enter a sarcasm-free zone with you.  Agree that you will hold each other accountable when you hear the other person using sarcasm.

I hope you will seriously consider my challenge to you. You can do it, and your reputation will benefit greatly. What do you say?

Eliminating sarcasm may just be one of the most rewarding personal development steps you’ll ever take because it forces you to better express who you really are and what is important to you.

About the Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 30 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s daily lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts. (Todd’s podcasts are ranked #27 in America’s top 100 podcasts and #1 in the personal and development field.)

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  • mikzy

    I used to be very sarcastic until a friend informed me it was, "painful". Truly my "sarcasm" was a way for me to express how I truly felt without having to take ownership of it. It gave me license to say whatever I wanted to whomever I wanted, and blame them if they had a negative reaction: "They're too sensitive, can't take a joke, are the true assholes etc." In truth, it was me who was the dick, and when I learned this I found it easier to maintain healthy, social contacts. Unfortunately, I lost lots of social experiences because I chose to rigidly hold onto my anti-social behavior. People who are "sarcastic" need to learn how to express themselves in healthier more tactful ways. You don't always have to say what's on your mind.

  • tplez

    And that person was being a true friend. Too often people don't share their true feelings and the hurt continues exponentially. In opening up to you about that pain, he/she has now saved others from experiencing similar pain.

  • Renee

    Thank you for this post! I read it as I was searching your archives... I have long felt this way and I have felt like the "lone voice in the wilderness" when expressing this point of view. Sarcasm may seem funny, but someone is always hurt by it! How different this world would be if we treated each other with respect and caring. There would be no need for sarcasm and relationships would thrive. I will be sharing this! Thanks so much, Renee H.

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