Deadpool’s Guide to Sarcasm

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I consider myself to be sarcastically-inclined. When I’m not saying it out loud, there’s often a sarcastic inner monologue running through my head. Sometimes its reminiscent of Friends’ Chandler Bing (“Could that car BE any slower?”), but there are times it’s leaning more towards the scathing humor of Deadpool.

Deadpool is a supervillain turned antihero from Marvel comic books. His mental stability is questionable as are his mercenary tactics, but he generally fights on the side of good. While Deadpool is interesting on many levels, I mention him today because of his reputation as the “Merc with a Mouth.” Deadpool talks… he talks a lot. Sarcasm is his verbal weapon of choice and he uses it to annoy other superheroes and break the fourth wall by speaking directly to the reader.

Based on new research, Deadpool’s ability to harness sarcasm may be a leadership trait that can benefit all of us. In a study published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, sarcasm in the workplace was found to be a key driver in creative thinking. This is true for the person uttering the remark and the listener who understands it. Sarcasm requires abstract thinking, where you must determine the distance between the literal and figurative meaning of whatever it is you are saying – which is also known to be a hallmark of intelligence.

[Sarcasm is] the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.—Fyodor Dostoevsky

Using sarcasm is not without risks. Participants in the study who were exposed to random sarcasm reported higher levels of conflict than those in a more trusting, familiar setting. These finding correlate with others studies that suggest sarcasm may be beneficial to the bonding of a group, but only after its members have established some familiarity with one another. Otherwise, sarcasm creates discord, since it’s difficult to determine tone and meaning without first knowing the person who’s slinging the sarcastic quips.

[Sarcasm is] the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence.—Oscar Wilde

If you want to tap into your inner Deadpool/Chandler Bing, heed these sarcasm warnings. They may help you unleash your creativity and intelligence and avoid becoming a social pariah.

Know your audience. People have vastly different ranges of tolerance for sarcasm; some see it as hostile, while others appreciate the humor. This can be regional where a 2008 study found that people in upstate New York were more likely to associate humor with sarcasm, versus people in Tennessee who found sarcasm to be negative. It can be gender specific where another study found that men are more sarcastic than women and women were more sarcastic when interacting with men. And it can be based on the individual. The point is that you need to be familiar with whomever you are trying to communicate before unloading your sarcasm arsenal.

Know thyself. Look inward to determine why you’re using sarcasm. Is it to be a bully and compensate for inadequacies? Communicate a negative emotion while softening the blow with humor? Or are you joking around as a sign of affection and bonding? Whatever your reason, make sure it is intentional and constructive.

Know the circumstances. If you’re unsure how your audience will respond, keep it to yourself. This may be painful and will feel like a waste of a good quip, but you need to consider whether the one-second witticism is worth the long-term damage.

Deadpool’s primary source of communication is sarcasm. It can be a valuable tool for you too, if used in the right company and with more discretion than Deadpool tends to exhibit. While sarcasm may offend some, using it with friends and those you know well can spark creativity, inspiration, and team cohesiveness. It can ease the sting of criticism and unite people around an “in” joke.

I was raised on sarcasm; so unfortunately, I’m not sure how to teach you to become more sarcastic. Maybe start with a Friends marathon or check out the new Deadpool movie. You could also ask my wife about the last five things I’ve said that annoy her. Yeah, that’s a good idea.

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