We have had a good run you and I. There have been some fun times, but it’s just not working anymore.
I read somewhere that sarcasm is the lowest form of discourse (literature scholars please offer a source for this truth). I had always thought that sarcasm was a gift. I didn’t realise that it was one of those gifts that might be best left behind for another to use.
For a long-time I took pride in my fast responses and enjoyed the impact of a well placed disdainful comment. I didn’t fully value the impact that these remarks might have on perceptions.
As a professional I do my best to keep my terminology crisp and clear as so much can be lost in the space between words read quickly on a screen. This has come from some tough lessons of items that have been misconstrued due to language or context being undeclared in the content.
Sarcasm can be a great tool in the right circumstance. When combined with wit or humour a sarcastic retort can be impactful. It can make a story land in a way that makes a listener remember it. Over time I have learned that unlike sarcasm both wit and humour can be used to great impact on their own. Sarcasm can too, but without humour or wit to soften the blow it tends to just sound bitchy.
You will notice in great literature sarcasm is a tool for the supporting characters. Rarely is it used by the hero of the story. Heroes are known to put the villains back in their places without the need for this crutch. So why does this matter?
If you want to be the hero instead of the sidekick, you better get some more effective weapons for your arsenal.
Not too long ago I submitted some writing that I had done for a grad school assignment. One of the items had what I considered a cheeky dig at the opponent’s approach. While my work received a great grade, the point received a negative comment from my professor. At the time I thought that she was attacking my point which was well researched and valid. I was offended that she didn’t get me.
This weekend I went for a hike in the woods and was struck with an epiphany that she wasn’t actually attacking me. She was warning me that I might lose my argument because of the sarcastic delivery.
My work might not win the debate even though I had the better argument because my sarcasm would serve to make the reader stop listening.
People don’t hear your message when you attack them before you share it.
Persuasive arguments are fought on good data and sound logic. Sometimes they may include a witty or funny analogy in order to make the reader engage on a deeper level, but they have no need for bitchy digs.
It’s because of this realisation that over the next few months I am weaning myself off sarcastic comments. I work hard to build credible connections between different data points and should not serve to reduce their impact or risk losing the game by throwing foul balls at the batter.
I realise that it can be hard to change something that I used to take pride in. While I may mourn for the retorts never getting a chance to hit their mark, I will celebrate my ability to articulate an argument and win the debate as the hero of my story.