April 27, 2015

“Sarcasm and subtlety are wasted on the easily confused.”

That statement resonated with me.

I was talking with a high school teacher, a debate coach.

I don’t remember what we were talking about. But the context was likely social justice. Things like racism and sexism and socioeconomic rights and … Well, you get the gist.

  • Subtlety….The quality of being subtle. That’s what the dictionary says. I get so annoyed with definitions that use a form of the word for defining. But the definition goes on to mention synonyms like: delicacy, understatedness, nuance…
  • Sarcasm….The use of irony to mock or convey contempt. Synonyms include cynicism, scoffing…
  • Confused…Unable to think clearly. Bewildered. Befuddled. Puzzled. Perplexed.

Of course, you’re wondering where I’m going with this. And I’m not really sure. I just really like the statement.

But, maybe I could apply this sometimes…. Like with a group (e.g., board or committee meeting, trying to make a point with a client, trying to agitate in a presentation…in an article…as a headline for a blog or something….???!!!)

So here are some examples that I worked on to utilize the tool of “sarcasm and subtlety are wasted on the easily confused.” Of course, the challenge of this is, as Dr. Albert Mehrabian tells us, communications is only 30% of what you say. The other 70% is voice, tone, face, gestures, huge tacky rings, etc.

  • “I’m so tired of whiny people.  (I’m being really sarcastic!) People should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and earn their way in life.” (Sarcasm again. I’m so pissed at this sentiment. Just read the book The Self-Made Myth: And the Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed by Brian Miller and Mike Lapham.) Actually, a fair amount of people believe that those other people should just “pull themselves up.” Easier said than done, I say. 
  • “I’m not so sure there’s a glass ceiling anymore. Black people and women are CEOs of big companies now.” (Indeed, there are CEOs of big companies who are black and female. But not very many. And, according to research, women continue to bump into the glass ceiling. And women are still paid less than men for the same work. And and and …) I’m thinking this statement is pretty subtle. And I sure am being sarcastic.
  • “I often wonder about men who choose to stay home and care for children. I wonder if they just couldn’t get a good job. I suspect that the wife earns more money than the husband made.” (What?! Maybe the guy is married to a guy. And one husband wanted to stay home with the kids. And the other husband wanted to work outside the home. Or both wanted to stay home but they needed an income so they drew straws or talked and voted or or … Or maybe the guy is the nanny…Or maybe there’s no marriage involved…Or…)

I use quite a bit of sarcasm myself…in life and in work. Mostly, I don’t think I’m too subtle. But maybe sometimes I am. I think I’m rather subtle (maybe not the right word) when I keep using “life partner” instead of “husband.” I watch the faces. And people do tell me that they wondered if I was married, living with a man but unmarried, or a lesbian… And that’s exactly what I want them to wonder!!! For all kinds of reason, which, if you read any of my blogs or articles or books or hear me present… You know that I do this on purpose to make a statement about social justice.

Okay. Off to work. But first, thanks Aaron. You made me think. And I really do like that statement, “Sarcasm and subtlety are wasted on the easily confused.”

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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