2nd Jul, 2023

On Sarcasm

A few days ago, my wife indicated that I use sarcasm sometimes when talking to our daughter and how children cannot make sense of sarcasm under a certain age. I never thought much about it, didn't even fully notice it. I use sarcasm a lot when talking with friends and always thought it would be funny. I read and thought a lot about the topic in the past few days and I've come to the conclusion that sarcasm in general and especially when communicating with our daughter is aggressive. I should get rid of my habit of using sarcasm altogether.

Children & Sarcasm

As mentioned above, children under a certain age are not able to understand sarcasm. And thinking about it, that's no surprise. Children need to learn a lot about the world still and human communication is a very complex topic. Just learning a language to be able to communicate is hard work. But to fully understand people, you have to learn about body language a lot. After all, only 7% of communication is words at times.

Talking to someone in a way they don't understand is bad enough as you will never be able to communicate clearly. The exchange is set up for failure. But it goes further than this: Using sarcasm in conversations with children is actually considered aggressive and verbal abuse. Sounds harsh? I thought so, too. After all, I was just joking, right?. Let's dive in.

Sarcasm in general

There is a lot of writing about sarcasm online. Here's one quote that I find interesting:

We hear the term passive-aggressive often to describe someone whose orientation is sarcastic. It means that on the surface, the person’s words and actions are neutral, but that underneath them lies a second layer of meaning which is aggressive. It doesn’t mean wavering between the two; it means both at once. Sarcasm is passive-aggressive speech.

This makes a lot of sense to me, reflecting on situations I'm sarcastic in. I'm not brave enough to communicate my real feelings. Instead, I hide behind a layer of "witty" comments. That's not only passive-aggressive, but also unauthentic.

I will go even further and say it's not just unauthentic, but also cowardly. The perfect version of me will always speak their heart. And if you speak your heart, you should do so with full commitment. Sarcasm takes that commitment away. Because you communicate your feelings, but you do it through this extra layer. You let the other person figure out what you might feel. And if someone disagrees or challenges you, you don't have to talk about it directly and stand your ground. You can just take the easy way out and say "I didn't say that, I was just joking". You can never be hurt.

I always had a hard time communicating my feelings (because to begin with, I had a hard time even recognizing my feelings). I worked on that a lot in the past years and I think I made great progress. Not using sarcasm anymore seems to just be the next step on that journey. I just never realized how bad of a habit it was.

© 2024 Chris Jarling