My fiancée and I are continuing a thread we started last year. Once a week, we attempt to go an entire day without using sarcasm. Seems innocuous at first, possibly a bit silly, and certainly not hard. Well, it turns out only one of those things is true, it is silly, but definitely not easy.
I realize how much of the way we (as a generation) communicate via sarcasm. For the first half of the day, I have to be so careful to speak truthfully, I end up sounding like English is my 2nd language.
“Honey? These… eggs are… a little on the cold side for me. I prefer to eat eggs… when they are still… hot.”
“I think it’s time for me to take a shower. I do not smell good. I smell bad.”
As the day goes on, several things start to happen. First of all, the words start to flow more smoothly, style moves in, and complete conversations happen without too much self-checking. Ahhhh…
Second, another level of trust exposes itself. I’m not talking about the deep heart-felt sense of trust that hopefully is present in any committed relationship. I’m speaking of a subtle layer of trust that escorts every conversation you have during any day of the week with anyone. Sarcasm is the gentle form of protection we use in each engagement to insure that we aren’t to exposed or vulnerable during the conversation. After all, THE LAST thing we want is to look stupid. Even in a trusting relationship there can sometimes be a veil of protection up during the playful, teasing moments. Saturday is a prime candidate for those moments. In a nutshell, we’ve noticed that we trust each other a “little” more throughout the day.
Third, and this one I can only speak for myself, is that I notice how many things I say during the day that ARE truthful, but I use the tone of sarcasm. Effectively, the tone will almost always overrule the meaning. What do they say? “90% of communication is non-verbal.”
For instance, my girl was leaving for this fancy coffee shop down the street. I noticed she had a hole in her jeans and was wearing a cute little t-shirt. As she was walking out, I (almost) said in a playful voice, “YOU look HIP.” Of course, she both laughed it off and said “hey!” thinking that my sarcastic tone implied that she in fact, didn’t look hip – the last thing she wanted to hear before she walked into the trendy coffee shop. Ironically, I REALLY did think she looked “hip”. I wasn’t making fun of her at all, but I was using a playful/ironic voice to tell her I was attracted to her without exposing myself too greatly in that moment.
I’m gonna get off track here for a second, but why would I do that? I mean, I have no problem at all telling her straight to her face that I think she is fantastically gorgeous and I’m overwhelmingly attracted her. In fact, I do it all the time – and she believes me. So why the sarcasm?
Well, I’m slowly getting back to the beginning here, but I think it’s as simple as sarcasm is deeply engrained in our generations’ communication, and it takes a conscious effort to speak without it and still feel “cool”.
The other side of the coin is the obvious, simple fact that sarcasm is one of the oldest forms of HUMOR. “Why” it is such an effective kind of humor is for another conversation, but the simple answer is that it’s funny. And while we like to BE in trusting relationships (deep and subtle,) we also enjoy laughter.
So where does that leave this conversation? The short answer is that most deeply trusting relationships can endure and enjoy sarcasm as a source of humor and not feel threatened. Most surface engagements between friends and colleagues can do the same, as there’s not much at stake, and after all, humor IS a prime spark for joy. But, sarcasm is also a form of defensiveness and that barrier prevents true connection, both on the surface and at the core.
Funny how I just wanted to try the no-sarcasm game just to see if I could do it, and it led to all this. Maybe try the game for a day and see what it opens for you.