Sarcasm is best known as the lowest form of wit, often by those who are frequently burned by it. Most people encourage you to avoid using it in daily speech. This is especially true when talking to people you do not know.

Sarcasm gets a bad rap and not without just cause. Too much sarcasm can lead to contempt, hurt and the inability to get anyone to take you seriously. Yet, sarcasm is not all bad. In fact, there is some evidence that from greater sarcasm comes greater creativity.

According to recent research, people who use sarcasm tend to be more creative. Those who have sarcasm directed at them are also more creative by extension. Thus, instead of disowning sarcasm altogether, it can be used to spark creativity in certain scenarios.

What Is Sarcasm?

Sarcasm is a form of speech known as irony. It is the most common form of irony. It is often used as a humorous way to show thinly veiled disapproval or contempt.

Sarcasm is like mockery. Unlike mockery, sarcasm is most often detected in a person’s tone and vocal inflections. This is part of the reason why some people struggle to understand sarcasm between two cultures.

Sarcasm Is Often Misinterpreted

Some people interpret sarcasm as being rude. Others distinguish it as a valuable way to express your discontent without sounding like a complete jerk. Only one thing is certain: it is often misinterpreted.

In a recent study, two people were asked to read different scenarios. In the scenarios, one person was doing something deemed as negative and a second person was commenting on the action. The second person would either comment saying something with a literal meaning or something sarcastic.

Not surprisingly, people saw the sarcastic statements as being more negative than the literal statements.

In another study, researchers noted that sarcasm is often misunderstood. This is particularly true when sarcasm is in writing. This is not a surprise considering that sarcasm relies on intonation and inflections.

What is surprising was that people who deemed written sarcasm as being negative, thought they correctly interpreted the message 90 percent of the time. Yet, their confidence waned when it was time to interpret voice messages.

Sarcastic People = Creative People?

Sarcasm is a difficult tool to use correctly. However, this is what makes it force people to be creative when using and interpreting speech.

Because sarcasm relies on inflections and is so often misunderstood, it requires people to think more creatively to be able to understand the comment. If the comment does not resonate with the person right away, such as trying to sell them payday loans, they have to spend more time analyzing the comment to figure out what it is about.

This process is an abstract one which relies on and promotes creative thinking. With so many meanings possible, the listener has to switch on their brain to process the information if they want to understand the real meaning.

Of course, sarcasm does not always require creative thought. Used in the wrong situation, it can shut down a conversation or a relationship. Thus, sarcasm is best used in relationships where the two people know each other well and have a strong relationship built on trust.

The need for a solid foundation is why you are able to respond in a creative and sarcastic manner to your best friend. However, if your boss makes a sarcastic comment, you are more likely to take it seriously and have a difficult time interpreting it. It’s hard to know if your boss means that you did a good job or if they mean that you actually did a terrible job when they used a sarcastic tone.

The word sarcasm comes from the Greek and Latin words “to tear flesh.” Even if it is tempting to use your more creative side, you should always think before unleashing that humorous hostility on another person.

Featured photo credit: Nirvana Melo via flickr.com

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