Could Your Sarcasm Be Holding You Back?

Could Your Sarcasm Be Holding You Back?

I’ve never been a fan of sarcasm. It never felt good to give it or receive it, yet, I played the sarcasm game for several years because it was prevalent in the culture I chose to be a part of. When I first vocalized my dislike of sarcasm, I was told I was too sensitive, so I put on a protective outer shell and played the game. Now I wonder how many people I may have hurt along the way?

First, recognize that there is a difference between wit and sarcasm. The dictionary defines it as a natural aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way to create humor. On the other hand, sarcasm is the use of irony to mock or convey contempt. Clearly, two different intentions behind the comment, and therein, could lay the challenge.

This whole topic came to light during a recent coaching conversation. In that conversation, my client shared that someone had told him he was negative, and it left him confused. As we dug deeper, what we uncovered was that he used a lot of sarcasm in his communication. After reviewing actual text messages, emails and conversations, it became clear how he could be perceived as negative. It was a huge ah ha moment for him!

He had actually grown up in an environment where sarcasm was the norm and he really didn’t think anything of it. That’s just how he communicated. What he now realized was that not everyone communicated like that. It was a perfect example of “getting lost in translation” even when both people are speaking the same language.

Sarcasm is used to get a reaction from someone. Some feel it lightens the mood when discussing something uncomfortable. The question to ponder is whether the reaction is getting the result you want. Being clear in your communication, while it may be a bit more uncomfortable, will leave everyone understanding the outcome which leads to a quicker result.

Now I’m not going to tell you that all sarcasm is bad, and in fact, there is a study from a couple of years ago that points to sarcasm being good in boosting creativity. I’m only going to suggest that you be highly aware of how your sarcasm is being perceived. You may have the purest of intentions, but remember, that perception is reality. As a leader you will communicate with all kinds of people who see the world differently from you. It’s up to you to meet them where they are before you can expect them to share your vision – not the other way around.

If sarcasm is your thing, check in today and make sure your sarcasm isn’t holding you back in any area of your life. The old childhood rhyme of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” may not be true with those who matter most to you.