Some people regard sarcasm as a heightened level of wit and sophistication. And it is true that witty, quick thinking retorts are often highly amusing and entertaining to others. How many of us have wished that we could have thought of that snappy rejoinder half an hour before instead of when we were driving home in the car ?
But sarcasm when both parties are not evenly matched can become a form of verbal abuse, a bit like a cat playing with a mouse, and equally unpleasant to watch. Dealing effectively with sarcasm can have several different approaches.
– Ignore it. Act a bit unworldly and treat the comments as if they were a valid remark. There is no sport in being sarcastic with someone who does not get the comments and they will give up trying if there is no reaction, if all that happens is a normal response that is oblivious to the inferences being made. Treat the remarks like water off a ducks back.
– Laugh at the comments. By joining in, their remarks lose their offensiveness, and laughter is often a great tool to defuse a tense situation. Being able to laugh at ourselves is an attractive quality and enables everyone around to comfortably join in with the humour too. You also show yourself as being confident enough to be able to relax and see the wit in the comments and the situation.
– Retaliate if you feel you are quick enough, but be wary of joining in a fight unless you know that you can win. And these situations can sometimes become quite unpleasant. Does it really matter to you that much or is it better to let it go ? Often by retaliating it can make the situation more difficult because the defence to sarcasm being nasty or cruel is often that the remark was meant as a joke. You can then appear to be excessively sensitive with no sense of humour. It is sometimes more embarrassing to pursue this line of conversation and better instead for you to pick one of the other options that I have outlined.
– Consider why this person is behaving this way and saying these things. Are they genuinely regarding themselves as bright and witty, but becoming a little over the top, or are they trying to appear superior. Are they perhaps jealous or trying to score points and so becoming a verbal bully ? Often low self-esteem and confidence levels are a factor when someone is trying to win a war of words. There can be an attempt to demonstrate their greater intellect by a putting others down mentality. You can reassure yourself that they are less confident that they are appearing and usually everyone around can see that this is the case. This behaviour is often an elaborate cover up.
By protecting yourself in the most appropriate way you can reinforce the true belief that this situation is not about you. You are in a situation caused by another person to amuse and entertain themselves and perhaps others. Allow yourself to keep control, protect your confidence levels and you will emerge stronger and more confident as a result.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist