Growth 3 min read

How to Stop Being Sarcastic

Sarcasm is a hurtful, nonproductive way of expressing our frustration or anger with others.

Several years ago, during the morning break at one of my presentations, a female co-worker came up to me and asked, “Do you know you have that hair clip on your bangs?”  I was mortified. In my rush to get out of the house, I’d clamped on the large silver clip to temporarily to set my bangs but had forgotten to remove it when I arrived at work.  Perturbed that my co-worker hadn’t signaled me earlier regarding this fashion faux pas, I resorted to a popular but unwise mode of communication: sarcasm.

“Why, of course.  I want it there!”

Do you regularly respond to a person or a group’s actions or decisions in a way that is opposite of what you really feel — as evidenced by your tone or body language (smirking, raising eyebrows, cocking your head to the side, or sighing)?

Sarcasm can ruin your relationships, as its goal is usually to express irritation, to scorn, belittle, insult, or to show disapproval.

How has your sarcastic attitude affected your life? How do you typically respond to your recurring frustrations or irritations with others? Perhaps you have convinced yourself that you are not sarcastic at all, but rather witty or humorous. Sarcasm is no joke despite your best attempt to disguise it with a laugh.

Perhaps you are not aware that  sarcasm usually leaves the hearer feeling diminished or devalued. This is no way to win friends or influence people. If you want to begin to address this poor communication style, try these strategies:

Admit your motive for being sarcastic. You may be attempting to control other people or to shame them out of behavior that you disapprove. Face it, the only person you can control is yourself.

Practice a more direct approach to expressing your displeasure. Posing a simple question designed to gain a better understanding will go a long way. For example, rather than asking “What in the world were you thinking?” try, “What strategy or goal did you have in mind when you made that move?” This latter statement expresses confidence that surely the person applied some forethought.

Consider the implications and consequences of what you are about to say before you say it. Ask yourself, “Will my words imply that the hearer is stupid or has poor judgment? Do they tear down or do they build?  

Consider how you would feel if someone were to say to you what you are about to say to another. Let the Golden Rule be your guide: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

Direct and considerate communication really is a higher form of interaction. It will endear you to others and lead to more mutually rewarding relationships.

Deborah Smith Pegues is a communications strategist, CPA/MBA, and bestselling author of numerous books including 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue (over 1,000,000 sold). Read more about her at




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