How to deal with sarcastic people

Written by patrickb
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How to deal with sarcastic people
Sarcastic people are predictable. (and then he said... image by Jake Hellbach from

Sarcasm is something that we may experience every day. Glib coworkers and friends can make comments that are sarcastic and may be intended to amuse others or attack discreetly. Sarcasm be used to hide someone's true intentions, or hurt someone else by veiling an insult with a compliment. But a sarcastic person could just be trying to make a joke. Knowing the difference between a harmless joke and a more barbed one is difficult.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


  1. 1

    Step back and evaluate the situation. Often, the best way to deal with an interpersonal situation is to take a minute to gather your thoughts and distance yourself. This can bring clarity and perspective. This is a good first step to solve any problem.

  2. 2

    Look at the big picture. Is this person your friend? Your boss? Or is it someone with whom you have very little contact but who still might be rude to you? Quantifying a relationship can help you define what goal you want to achieve in this situation. For example, if the person is your boss you may want him or her to stop persecuting you, in order to have a more comfortable work environment.

  3. 3

    Determine your goals. Do you want this person to leave you alone, or are you just hoping he or she will be more clear about their intentions, rather than veiling them with sarcasm?

  4. 4

    Deal with the sarcastic person directly. Talking about someone behind his back is never a good strategy. Sarcastic people can be aggressive, so if a person is putting you down or being condescending to you, respond with a direct, or even sarcastic, response of your own. Remaining passive will only invite the situation to continue.

  5. 5

    Take into account the sarcastic person's possible dominance issues and insecurity. Sarcasm is a way to subtly prove dominance or hide insecurity. Relieving people's dominance issues as well as any insecurities may prove effective at dealing with sarcasm.

Tips and warnings

  • Don't take sarcasm too seriously. People may be snide sometimes, but they may also be pulling your leg. Until you can tell the difference it may be in your best interest to give them space or turn a cold shoulder.
  • Any relationship may have nuances that a few broad tips cannot address. Sometimes people are just unreadable or different than others. No two people are the same.

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