Are you the kind of person who gets really nervous when someone is telling you a joke in front of a group of people that already know and understand the punchline? I am. For some reason, that pressure freezes my brain!
My daughter is kind of the same. Years ago, when she was confronted with a mathematical question in front of me, my wife (her teacher) and her siblings, her brain froze. It was almost comical how simple the question was, but that made it even worse. And it frustrated my wife – did I mention she was her teacher? When it frustrates my wife, it frustrates me. So I did what every good dad should do to embrace his daughter’s fragile self-image – I resorted to sarcasm. It’s my cowardly way to vent. It worked – for me and hurt for her. Which meant it didn’t work for me. No, not at all.
When we get frustrated with people, even those who are closest to us, how much do we rely on sarcasm to help us vent that frustration or even intentionally “dig” on them a bit? How much do we resort to sarcasm to help "teach" without really teaching?
I was with a client a few weeks ago, sharing this story about my daughter and my intentional change away from sarcasm. She shared something that has really caught my attention. In the Greek language, sarcasm means “tearing flesh”. Yep. That’s what I've been doing with my kids?! Now, in fairness, it's not every conversation, but then again, if I only occasionally tear my kids' flesh... yeah, that's not okay.
Maybe if we see it that way, we’ll come up with more constructive forms of communication. After all, these are people we respect, love and often admire. Let’s treat them that way.