Sarcasm Is Not Always Funny

This week, I’m focused on some professional development with my team. About 4 times a year, we all get together to spend time planning, catching up, and learning. We are located all over North America and it’s great to get to see each other in person and reconnect. This particular trip, we are focusing on our own “executive presence.” We are fine-tuning things like the importance of non-verbals, knowing the difference between status and power, and the power of vocals and voice.

In a deep-dive session, there was some discussion back and forth between the team. In one particular interaction between a colleague and me, I used some sarcasm in our exchange. Now, if you know me well, you know that I can use some doses of sarcasm. It has been my attempt to add some humor and levity to some situations. Well, in this particular instance, our coach called me on it. She addressed the use of sarcasm in a team setting and said that with the use of sarcasm, there is a bit of some truth in the statement as well as a delivery of something that could be hurtful or insulting.

This hit me like a Steve Atwater hit on Christian Okoye. I immediately went into defensive mode and explained that I have a strong relationship with the person and she and I are able to communicate directly with each other and solve any conflicts we have directly and without the use of sarcasm. And then I shut down for a few minutes and folded my arms representing a closed off position. I was putting my learning to a test.

Then I realized the impact of my words and actions. I realized the impact of my use of sarcasm and how it may appear to others who don’t have the benefit of knowing the context of my relationships. I realized that my use of sarcasm was, at times, a sense of my own insecurities. I use it to deflect blame or hurt on things that impact me. And I realized, at that moment, that it doesn’t make others, or me, feel any better.

If I learn anything, this week, it’s that I am now going to be more aware of my use of sarcasm and the impacts. I’m working to reduce my reliance on it and be more direct and honest with my statements and feedback for others. It’s kinder, gentler, and more caring and we could use a little more of that.


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