How to Deal With a Sarcastic Person

Three Methods:Handling the Remark GracefullyUnderstanding the Reasons for SarcasmLearning to Recognize Sarcasm

Sarcasm is when someone makes an observation that isn’t intended to be mistaken for truth in order to draw attention to its ridiculousness. It’s often a rather aggressive verbal tool, though it may be disguised as humor. Sarcasm is a way of mocking or teasing another person. Usually, the main indicator of sarcasm is a particular tone of voice which makes it difficult to call the person out on his behavior.

Method 1
Handling the Remark Gracefully

  1. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 1
    Distinguish between playful and hurtful sarcasm. Sometimes sarcasm is used to inject humor into a situation or dissipate tension. In other cases, sarcasm is wielded as a verbal weapon intended to injure. Knowing the difference is important, since you don't want to overreact if the sarcastic person is just trying to be funny. In general, if the remark doesn't single a person out, it's possible it was intended to be humorous.
    • For example, someone might try to lighten the mood in a long line by saying, "Oh, I'm soooo happy to be standing in this ridiculously long line right now." There's nothing aggressive about that statement; the person probably just wants to get a few chuckles.
    • On the other hand, this statement could be perceived as aggressive, depending on the tone with which it's delivered: "Wow, I'm so lucky that you're the person I'm standing next to in this ridiculously long line."
  2. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 2
    Ignore the sarcastic remark. The best way to deal with a sarcastic remark in the moment is to treat it as if the speaker were sincere. This is a way to move the conversation along without interruption, and allows you to appear confident and collected.[1]
    • You can also ignore the sarcastic remark completely, pretending not to hear it.
    • If the speaker’s intention was to upset you, you won’t be rewarding him with your attention.
    • Turning to talk to another person altogether will send the message that you’re unwilling to engage in additional conversation with the sarcastic person.
  3. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 3
    Correct what the person said. This is another way of pretending not to understand the sarcasm, and deflecting the speaker’s negative intent.[2]
    • For example, if the person said, “What a surprise - you doing something nice!” you can respond by saying how your action wasn’t meant out of niceness, but because it was simple to help out.
    • By responding with apparent sincerity, you’ll make their comment look especially inane.
  4. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 4
    Tell the person how you feel about the remark. Sometimes being honest is the best response, particularly if the person is sarcastic on a regular basis. You don’t have to be angry or defensive. Just tell him that his comment upset you.[3]
    • Keep your comment simple and direct, without bringing up anything else that might have hurt your feelings.
    • If he tries to pretend it wasn’t a big deal, don’t respond. Telling him how you felt about the sarcastic comment wasn’t an invitation to debate your feelings.
    • You can also find a time to talk to the sarcastic person when you’re both calm. Find a time and place where you’re unlikely to be interrupted, and express your feelings. This may result in greater sympathy and understanding.
  5. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 5
    Stay calm. Responding to a sarcastic comment with additional sarcasm doesn’t usually result in a happy ending. When you start to feel yourself getting upset, take a deep breath and try not to say anything. If possible, walk away from the situation.[4]
    • If this is a workplace situation, responding in anger could mean loss of your job or other negative consequences.
    • Do whatever you can to prevent yourself from responding quickly. Another option is to mentally count to 10 before responding. If you’re still upset after counting to 10, repeat the process.
  6. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 6
    Think about why you’re reacting. If the sarcasm is really getting under your skin, there’s a good chance that there’s something going on inside of you. Is this a topic that you’re especially sensitive about? Are you struggling with poor self-esteem that the comment reminds you of? If that’s the case, it might not be the sarcasm that’s the problem.[5]
    • Talking to a counselor or a friend about issues that routinely cause you to feel upset can be helpful in dealing with social teasing.
    • As you build your self-esteem and confidence, you may notice an increased resilience in social situations.
  7. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 7
    Consider your options. Is the sarcastic person someone that you’ll need to get used to, like your supervisor or your mother-in-law? If the sarcasm comes from someone you’ll be unlikely to see often, then it might be easier to ignore their taunts.[6]
    • If the sarcasm comes from someone you have to work with or see on a regular basis, talking to them about the affect their sarcasm has on you is often a better option,
    • Realize that the person may have their own reasons for wanting to see you react to his sarcasm.

Method 2
Understanding the Reasons for Sarcasm

  1. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 8
    Realize that you may just have a different sense of humor. Males are far more likely than females to consider sarcasm as a form of lighthearted humor. If your feelings are hurt by sarcasm, consider whether or not the intentions were really unkind.[7]
    • Think about other things the person has said or done and how they made you feel.
    • If the majority of actions were kind, it’s possible that the person just as a different sense of humor.
  2. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 9
    Recognize the roots of sarcasm. Essentially, sarcasm is a form of anger. Often, the sarcastic person is resentful, angry or bitter about perceived slights he’s received, whether at home or in the workplace. These slights may have come from you, but they’re just as likely to have come from someplace else altogether.[8]
    • The impulse behind sarcasm is to make another person feel bad, so that the sarcastic person can feel better.
    • It’s a dysfunctional communication that does more to injure others than it does to help the sarcastic person, but it’s also quite common.
  3. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 10
    Consider whether it’s a habitual response. If a person lives in a social environment in which sarcasm is a common method of communicating anger, he might not even realize that he’s using it with others. Even if he is aware, it’s a hard habit to break.[9]
    • If the person wants to try to learn better patterns of communication, talking to a counselor or therapist can be helpful.
    • Even if it’s a habitual response, that doesn’t make sarcastic behavior appropriate.

Method 3
Learning to Recognize Sarcasm

  1. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 11
    Listen for voice tone. A sarcastic tone is easier to recognize when you know a person well, as it involves a subtle alteration in the person’s typical speaking voice. If the person wants to make sure his sarcasm is recognized, these qualities may be exaggerated.[10] While a sarcastic tone doesn’t have qualities that are easily described, it is generally recognized by these qualities:
    • The speaker’s voice will be pitched lower than usual for his typical speaking voice.
    • The sarcastic words may be elongated, emphasized, or drawn out. For instance, “Yeah, it’s a GREAT day for a picnic.”
    • Sometimes people will mutter sarcastic comments slightly under their breath.
    • You may notice a slight sigh following the sarcastic remark.
  2. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 12
    Pay attention to facial expression. Someone making a sarcastic comment will often convey their feelings through facial expressions that contradict his statement. For example, someone may grimace as they’re making a statement that would be positive, if intended truthfully. For example, if he scowls as he says what a fine day it is for a picnic, there’s a good chance he’s being sarcastic, since most people enjoy fine days and picnics.[11]
    • Other facial expressions that often accompany sarcasm include eye rolls, raised eyebrows, or shrugged shoulders.
    • Sometimes people employing sarcasm have seemingly no facial expression at all; that is, they have a “flat” affect, and are speaking in a “deadpan” tone.
  3. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 13
    Consider if the person seems to be telling the truth. Sarcasm is when someone says something untrue without intending to deceive anyone. A sarcastic remark implies the opposite of what’s being said.[12]
    • For example, when someone says, “Great weather for a picnic,” on a day that’s clearly not ideal for a picnic (whether it’s cold, raining, or other conditions exist that would ruin most people’s ideas of a good day for a picnic), he’s being sarcastic.
    • The remark wasn’t intended to mean that it was, in fact, great weather for a picnic.
  4. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 14
    Check for hyperbole. A hyperbolic statement is one that is greatly exaggerated, not meant to be taken literally. This type of statement can often be used sarcastically. For example, if a person really thought a singer’s concert was terrible, he might say, “That was so good - I wish I’d paid 5 times as much for the ticket. A bargain!”[13] To detect hyperbole, see if the statement matches reality. You can then read the person's tone to determine whether it was meant to be funny or aggressive.
    • The use of hyperbolic sarcasm might be either to amuse, or as a aggression. In the example above, if the speaker assumes that he’s speaking to a friend who feels similarly disappointed in the overpayment for their tickets, the statement is sarcastic but not to wound.
    • If the statement was made to the host of the evening’s entertainment, the use of the sarcasm may be intended to be hurtful.
    • Sometimes hyperbole is used to express enthusiasm, not sarcasm. For example, someone might say, "That was the most delicious cupcake in the entire world. I could eat 10 dozen more!" If the person ate the whole cupcake, you can assume the statement wasn't meant to be sarcastic.
  5. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 15
    Notice certain phrases are frequently sarcastic. There are certain phrases that are so often used sarcastically that you should assume that they’re not intended literally. For example, when someone says, “Aren’t you special?” or “Tell it to someone who cares,” the meaning is almost always sarcastic.[14]
    • When someone responds to a statement with the phrase, “Big deal,” the phrase is almost always meant sarcastically. (This only applies to the phrase when used as a single utterance, however; the words “big deal” are usually sincere when spoken within a sentence.)
    • The phrase “yeah, right,” is sarcastic nearly 25% of the time it’s used, according to one study.
  6. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 16
    Be aware of regional variations in sarcasm. Sarcasm is more a part of common language in some portions of the United States than others. Regional surveys have found that sarcasm is much more common in northern states than southern. In addition, more Northerners describe themselves as being sarcastic than Southerners.[15]
    • Children as young as 4 years old pick up sarcasm from their parents and caregivers.
  7. Image titled Deal With a Sarcastic Person Step 17
    Know that certain conditions affect recognition of sarcasm. While there are many cultural cues available to correctly interpret sarcastic remarks, these cues may be inaccessible to people with certain cognitive processing issues. For example, it may be quite difficult for people with closed head injuries, brain lesions, autism or schizophrenia may to learn to recognize sarcasm.[16]
    • If you notice a diminished ability to recognize sarcasm in others, this may be a sign of dementia or other neurodegenerative disease.
    • Sarcasm is the simplest form of a lie. If a person can’t reliably interpret sarcasm, he’ll likely be unable to discern a lie.


  • Don’t join in the laughter that may arise following a sarcastic remark.


  • Realize that sarcasm is a form of emotional bullying. If sarcasm is damaging your self-esteem or your health, seek help from a counselor or therapist.

Article Info

Categories: Social Nuisances