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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sarcasm and passive aggression are defenses which are dangerous for all concerned.

Initially motivated by fear of domination or humiliation, sarcasm and passive aggression easily become habits which are hard to break.  These interpersonal behavior patterns may develop in response to teenage peer teasing, parental modeling, or parental over control and excessive negative criticism.  Whatever the cause of the initial sarcastic or passive aggressive behaviors, their habitual use causes emotional pain and often induces similar responses from others in retaliation.

"I was just teasing," or "Can't you take a joke?" are frequent rejoinders when sarcastic remarks are confronted, yet the "teasing" or "joking" has already had its painful, sharply cutting effects.

Passive aggression is often disguised as efforts to be helpful to someone while actually being motivated by a desire to put them down.  "Killing someone with kindness" is in this category.  There's always the potential for deniability when confronted, yet as with sarcasm, the damage has been done.

If we have become habitually sarcastic or passively aggressive, it is helpful to remind ourselves of the likely negative consequences and find alternative, more direct ways to express our feelings of dissatisfaction and anger.  Constructive "I statements" are probably most appropriate in most situations.

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