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'I work forty hours a week for me to be this poor.’ ‘You are pretty smart …. for an idiot!’ ‘The last time I saw make up like that was at the circus.’ ‘Is it time for your medication or mine.’

Razor sharp words, regardless of their intent, can cut deeply into one’s self esteem. Even when spoken in jest, sarcastic words can result in enemies, hurt feelings, ruined relationships.

Sarcasm is everywhere! You can see it in everyday speech, literature, movies and TV shows. It is an ironic or satirical remark tempered by humour. Mainly people use it to say the opposite of what’s true to make someone look or feel foolish. For example, you see a person struggling to open a door and you ask them, “do you need any help?” If they reply, “no thanks I’m enjoying the challenge,” one gets to know they are being sarcastic.

Sarcasm is all about the context and tone of voice, which is why it works verbally. Some have a “gift” for sarcasm. Friends cheer the use of clever words and one-liners. Others may use sarcasm as a primary means of self defence. Armed with weapons like words, one may wound those who pose a threat to their well-being or ego. Few, also, may find themselves using harsh words to those who are close.

At workplace, everybody, mostly, uses sarcasm as a joke. Men react more enthusiastically than women to aggressive humour. Mild sarcasm may be humorous but when it is mean, the pain of the remark may remain long after the laughter fades. Often, a playful war of wits becomes a heated argument. The core of sarcasm is open hostility or contempt. It matters little if it’s a direct attack, a subtle putdown, or a slip of the tongue.

Many have suffered from a damaged sense of self- worth because someone had joked about how stupid or unwanted they were. Sarcasm usually offends, often pierces deeply, and almost never leads to productive dialogue.

What, if using sarcastic speech, has become an ingrained habit? Then, it is time to learn to think before one speaks. If one is on the receiving end of sarcasm, before succumbing to the urge to retaliate, one must realize that people face huge pressures due to which they carry resentment and pentup aggression. Such hostilities are often released in the form of sarcastic speech.

It helps if we do not take ourselves too seriously. By not blowing a remark or an incident out of proportion, one can avoid being a user and perhaps a victim of sarcastic speech. Sometimes, the best reply is no reply. The way one feels in the heat of the moment might not be the way one will feel later.

A man once said, “I tend to be very witty and I like to be funny, which often gets me into trouble.” Once we say something, we can’t take it back any more than we can put toothpaste back into its tube.

Words pouring out of the mouth of a talkative person are, to some like the endless gushing of water from a large pipe. They inundate polite listeners and drown any efforts to carry on a refreshing conversation.

The less people think, the more they talk. Chattering on and on about personal problems, views and experiences, giving unnecessary details is a disregard for the interests and time of others, that endlessly drums on benumbed ears. It takes careful thought to say something beneficial and allow others to express themselves about the things that interests them.

Injurious gossip can easily slip out in the torrent of words that come out of the mouth of an endless talker. It can have damaging results that may eventually boomerang upon the person.

While it is good to spare one’s words, it is not wise to be uncommunicative. When one feels that the conversation is senseless, raising a question might tactfully steer it towards more profitable channels. Questions are good stimulators of interesting conversations. If what one is about to say is derogatory rather than constructive, imaginary rather factual, it would be best to leave it unsaid.

Sarcasm, in its milder forms, can be amusing. It can express deep feelings. Thought and good sense makes one’s speech edifying and instructive. People seek the company of those who are refreshing. Rather than letting words gush out in an unpleasant torrent, let them come out like a gentle, intermittent rain that is beneficial and welcomed.


Rekha Kumar The writer is a work-life balance and leadership skills facilitator [email protected]

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