How to deal with someone who is sarcastic

Written by leo sevigny
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How to deal with someone who is sarcastic
Sarcasm is rarely attractive. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Being on the receiving end of sarcasm can be demeaning and it does not take long for sarcasm to grow old. A challenging aspect of sarcasm is determining whether the person means to be hurtful or just playful. If you are not prone to using sarcasm yourself, you could find yourself lost in the discussion. Whether it is meant as humour or for insult, dealing with the person who is sarcastic requires interpersonal strategy.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


  1. 1

    Count to ten. This classic coping mechanism does two things. First, it gives you a chance to think about what just happened and consider a fitting and useful response. Second, it kills the buzz of the person being sarcastic. If you do not give them the reaction they are seeking, they lose the motivation to continue.

  2. 2

    Understand the tone of the conversation. You may misdiagnose a humorous jab for mean slander. Pay attention to the facial expression of the person being sarcastic; if they are smiling and seem good natured, they are probably just being cheeky. If they look arrogant or are sneering, they are probably intending to hurt.

  3. 3

    Act with civility, even in the face of insult. If someone nails you with sarcasm, collect yourself and resist the temptation to return fire. If the other person is truly intending to insult, the best way to respond is to be civil. Not only will it make it more difficult for the person to continue with sarcasm, it may cause them to apologise and treat you with respect.

  4. 4

    Maintain your integrity. The worst thing you can do during a cheap attack is abandon your morals and say or do something you might regret. Remember the characteristics that define you as a person and act accordingly.

  5. 5

    Respond to the person by paraphrasing what they just said. This is a powerful communication tool that forces the sarcastic person to reconsider what they said. By paraphrasing, you place the responsibility for the statement back to the speaker.

  6. 6

    Take away the stage. The person using sarcasm is like an actor or comedian in the middle of an act. If the audience does not arrive, the show will not go on. If you have to deal with someone who is notoriously sarcastic, do it in a one-on-one format.

  7. 7

    Treat the person with respect. Ironically, people who are sarcastic probably suffer from self-esteem issues. If you respond to their sarcasm by finding the morsel of truth in their statement and respecting their opinion, it changes the entire tone of the conversation.

Tips and warnings

  • It is hard for sarcastic people to aim their poison at people who are generally positive and nice. If you kill with kindness, sarcasm will less frequently haunt you.
  • There are times where sarcasm is purely in jest. Resist throwing the wet towel on what is intended to be good fun.
  • Resist using sarcasm to battle sarcasm. It will most likely spiral out of control to a very ugly place.
  • If the person is truly caustic, the strategies above may not work at all. If this happens, remove yourself from the situation and think twice about being around them again.

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