I don’t care if you are witty. I don’t care if your Facebook friends think you are a comic genius. And I don’t care if the person sitting across from you in that business meeting is a massive jerk and asking for it. The moment you revert to sarcasm is the moment you have committed the worst business meeting mistake there is.
Worse than incompetence? Worse than tardiness? Worse even than missing the meeting altogether?
Absolutely. It would be better for you to not even show up than to take a smarmy, snarky, sarcastic tone with another business person, because the instant you do, the meeting is over, even if it goes on another hour.
So why is sarcasm in business so poisonous? And why should it be avoided at all cost?
1) Sarcasm insults the other person’s intelligence.
The underlying message of a sarcastic remark is “you are clearly stupid and incapable of understanding what I, the smart one, am saying.” It puts you in an immediate position of condescension. And because in business, respect for each other’s competence is crucial, implying that the victim of your snark is incompetent is a sure way to alienate him/her and irreparably damage your business relationship.
There is something about this kind of insult that just sticks. Do not do it.
2) Sarcasm reveals your insecurity.
The dirty little secret of most sarcastic people is that they are incredibly insecure in their own abilities. Sarcasm is used as a defense mechanism to make them (they think) look smarter than they feel. Doesn’t work. Truly competent and secure individuals don’t need to denigrate others or use sly remarks to demonstrate their intelligence; they are able to work with others from a position of strength and confidence. If you find yourself often reverting to biting remarks with business peers, take a look in the mirror. And read more.
3) Sarcasm has no upside.
Have you, or anyone you know, ever, ever responded positively to a sarcastic remark directed at you? The universal reaction to sarcasm (again, directed at the individual) is revulsion and contempt. Now, comedians use sarcasm to great effect all the time, and it can be funny. However, it is usually pointed at a third party; truth is, if the comic turned the spotlight on you for some sarcastic punishment, the laughing would cease.
The point of business is positive progress, the exact opposite of what you get when you use sarcasm in your speech. There is no upside. Shooting a zinger at your client or business partner will never make him/her do something better. It will only breed ugliness.
Save the sarcasm for your personal life. Keep it out of the business sphere and you will be much better off.
Thanks for reading.
What do you think? Have you ever seen sarcasm used to positive effect in business?