Ronit and I have a very good friend, who has been in a difficult personal situation in the past couple of years. He feels very frustrated by his circumstances and sees himself powerless to break out of them and live a happy life again.
Often, when he talks to other people, he uses sarcasm. For example, one day he was contacted by a large company, which I was not familiar with. He got excited about it, but wanted to seem like he was keeping his cool, so as not to get disappointed if he did not get an order from them later on. So he said to me, "Gal, I just got off the phone with company XYZ".
"What is this company?", I asked.
"Oh, it's just a small company nobody knows", he said in a seemingly casual tone.
Knowing him all too well, I insisted, until he finally admitted, "They're the largest processed food manufacturer in our area and their inquiry is very large". He had been trying not to get his hopes up before, so he used sarcasm.
However, on many occasions, I have seen other people take his words literally, not knowing any better, and the rest of their conversation with him got more and more confused, each side assuming the other one was acting strange.
Think back on any sarcastic expression you have ever heard and ask yourself, "What is the feeling associated with sarcasm?"
The answer is helplessness and lack of control. Sarcasm is the weapon of disempowered people, who use information to regain some of their missing feeling of control.
Kids are innocent creatures and sarcasm goes straight over their little heads. When they respond to what they heard literally and get a strange reaction, telling them they have misunderstood, they get confused. Over time, using sarcasm in communication with a child is nothing short of verbal abuse, leaving the child's self-esteem damaged and giving the child a deepening sense of inadequacy.
Here is a typical situation that may happen in a typical home: money is tight, but the kids are not aware of this. One of the kids comes to Mom, possibly while she is busy with the latest bills, and says, "Mom, can I please get a Wii? My friends have them and they are really cool!"
"Sure", says the mother, "Right after we come back from the luxury cruise to Alaska".
[I think you know what is now happening in the child's mind. He is getting really excited, having just heard he is going on a dream holiday, the pictures of which he has probably seen before in ads and TV commercials]
"Wow!", he says, "When are we going?"
"What are you talking about?", says the frustrated mother, trying desperately to figure out how to make ends meet, "We're not going anywhere, now go away and let me finish with these bills".
Of course, not being able to afford good stuff for your kids is damaging to one's own self-esteem and may cause you to use sarcasm as a way of venting a bit and seemingly putting some humour into the situation. But the result is that your pressure and frustration are passed on to an innocent bystander, who quietly takes on the bad feelings, having developed false hopes not once, but twice, only to realize neither of them would come true. To make matters worse, this also gives him a sense of failure to communicate and even a feeling he may have made his mother feel bad.
If you have not done this already, freeze this scene in your mind's eye, associate yourself with the child for a minute, then gently float out of the child and associate yourself with the mother, working away on those bills, suddenly grasping what she has done.
To find out when you are using sarcasm in your life and overcome it, here are some things you can do:
- Ask the people around you (mainly your partner)
- When you talk to someone, pay attention to puzzled looks
- Recall any "bitching sessions" you may have had lately and examine the type of interaction you have with the people who attended them, because misery loves company and sarcasm is the weapon of the helpless
- Make a list of your frustrations and imagine yourself in those situations. What are you saying?
- For each of your frustrations, ask yourself, "What is at least one thing I can do to make this situation acceptable?"
- Ask yourself if your expectations of each situation are realistic. Are you seeing the other people's point of view, for example?
- Whenever you feel helpless, stop and ask yourself if this is really the case and take some action or adjust your expectations immediately
Feel the power over your life coming back into your own hands!
Share you thoughts and successes with me via the comment box below.