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How to Counteract Sarcasm

by Elise Wile

The cutting and often bitter wit that is sarcasm can be funny if it's coming from the likes of Mark Twain, who was known for his sarcastic quips. Statements like, "We have the best government that money can buy," and "Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please," sound amusing now, but might not have at the time he said them. When the remarks are coming from a colleague, friend or family member, they often cut to the bone. To preserve a healthy relationship, let a person know when his sarcasm is preventing optimal communication.

Give the sarcastic person the benefit of the doubt. Sarcasm is often rooted in anger, and can be a passive-aggressive way to express oneself. Sometimes, however, it is simply a bad habit, says author and blogger Dr. Carl Alasko in "Psychology Today." If you notice that a person is sarcastic in most of her dealings with other people, recognize that it is a personality trait that is unlikely to change.

Ignore the sarcasm if possible. Maintaining a calm, cool and collected demeanor can thwart a sarcastic person's intent to humiliate or anger. It will also prevent a conflict from arising.

Use humor to counteract the sarcasm. If you ask your co-worker how she fixed the broken copy machine, and she replies, "My fairy godmother did it," ask her for the fairy's phone number in a deadpan voice and a twinkle in your eye.

Let the person know their sarcastic remarks cause you pain. Give a specific example of the remark that hurt you, advises Sarah Felix in her article "Dealing with Difficult People: 17 Tips to Keep You Sane" on GoodHousekeeping.com. For example, let your husband know that when he said, "You really worked hard today, didn't you?" after coming home to a messy house that his remark hurts your heart. Ask for honest communication that is conveyed without scorn.

Negotiate other ways to communicate, advises Alasko. This can be tricky, and may result in you needing to change the way you communicate as well. Generally, this only works if both people are committed to the relationship, so if it's your boss who's battering your self-esteem with sarcasm, ignoring or humor is likely to be your best defense.

About the Author

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.

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