Sarcastic or Caustic

Photo By Pink Sherbet PhotographyD. Sharon Pruitt

Are you sarcastic or are you caustic?

There is a difference:

  • Sarcastic – You Use words for humorous affect, to emphasize a point, break tension and they are not used to hurt others purposely.
  • Caustic – You purposely use words to wound, hurt, belittle or dehumanize others to inflate your own self-importance in public.

Using sarcasm properly in social situations is a learned skill and not one that many of us have mastered, myself included.  The biggest problem that I have seen with sarcasm is that most people do not know when to stop and they cross the line to being caustic at someone else’s expense, usually in public.

Stop and think before you are sarcastic. Are you in a position of power such as a teacher is over a student, a supervisor over an employee or a parent over a child. Is your sarcasm being taken by the person that received it in the spirit you intended it? In many instances your sarcasm was too sophisticated or subtle for the person and they took the literal meaning of your sarcastic remark.

If you are sarcastic with those whom you know do not have the same level of sophistication as you may have, aren’t you really being needlessly caustic at the expense of the target of your sarcasm.  How often do people respond in a manner you did not expect as a result of your sarcasm, maybe you need to re-look at what you are doing, maybe you have crossed over to being caustic.

  • If you are a teacher how often do your student respond angrily to one of your “being sarcastic” comments back to them?
  • Are you the adult or the problem in that situation?

Think about it.

Yes this is a very simplistic explanation of being caustic versus sarcastic, but the next time you have a sarcastic response for someone you know may have difficulty interpreting your attempt at good natured sarcasm – stop it may not be taken that way. How does that person feel, especially if you are in a position of authority over them are they unable, to respond to your use of words that have hurt them needlessly, because if they do they are the ones who get in trouble.

Sad isn’t it, but think how many times you have been sarcastic and the person it was directed at believed you were being caustic to them and was hurt by your words.

Think before you use words that hurt and ensure that your target will take your sarcasm in the way it was intended, otherwise shut-up and save it for someone who can appreciate your wit.

What have you done to make a difference today?