Consider the following scenario: you and your neighbor engage in a political discussion. After a few moments, it becomes apparent that the two of you have serious disagreements about the upcoming presidential elections. Being equally as passionate about your positions, the debate quickly becomes heated. You, a more confident narrator, have more specific points to back up your statements. Her frustration is evidence that she is feeling somewhat at a disadvantage. Try as she will, she realizes she cannot compete with one as knowledgeable and confident as you. Her self-esteem takes a hit as she struggles with feelings of inadequacy and humiliation. In an attempt to restore her dignity and create an equal playing field, she resorts to sarcasm and arrogance. “Well, it’s impossible to argue with someone who’s always right.” Or perhaps she denigrates herself with, “I’m certainly no match for someone as brilliant as you!”
Sarcasm is a form of passive/aggressive anger meant to mock or insult the other person. Rather than being straightforward, the individual expresses harsh or bitter disdain against the other party in a covert manner. This can be presented in a mocking or contemptuous way characterized not only by their choice of words but the tone in their voice as well as body language, specifically facial expressions. Very often the intention behind the actual words is the direct opposite. Stating that one is brilliant is actually intended to convey the message that they are self-centered and egotistical.
Arrogance is another form of dealing with what one perceives to be an imbalance of power. One displays a sense of superiority over others, has an over-inflated sense of self-worth, and lacks humility. Those who project the image of having vast knowledge when in truth they know little if anything about a particular subject matter. Their insecurities cause them to become overly protective of their image, fearful that others may discover the truth about their imperfections and flaws. They can be snobbish at times deluding themselves into believing they are superior to others. This facetious post on social media illustrates my point: “I’m not a snob. Ask anyone who knows me – well, anyone that matters.” Years ago, there was a commercial on TV for luxury cars stating they were available for “well-appointed buyers”. In other words, for the elite only – arrogance in advertising.
In the case where one or both parties resorts to sarcasm or arrogance it’s important to recognize that behaviors both are deeply rooted in fear, an underlying component of anger. Fear results from a lack of self-confidence, failure in recognizing that one is fully capable of dealing with the situation at hand. Overly concerned about what others think of them, they feel compelled to portray an air of intelligence, competency, indifference, etc. Any display of what they perceive to be an imperfection leaves them vulnerable to criticism which would further damage their already low self-esteem.
So what is the solution? When dealing with an arrogant or sarcastic person it’s important to build a trust with them in order to put their fears to rest. Knowing you will not judge them enables them to be more honest and real with you. Openly admitting to your own flaws is one way to accomplish this as it helps to put them at ease, knowing you are comfortable with your own deficiencies. It’s also critical to set boundaries with them in how they speak to or treat you. If something is offensive, call them out on it in a respectful manner. Never allow disrespectful behavior to continue.
If you tend to be snarky or condescending, work on valuing yourself more. Identify your weaknesses and work on strengthening them. Know that your flaws are part of what makes you unique. Remind yourself daily of the attributes God has blessed you with. Giving credit to the One who created the distinctive person that you are enables you to remain humble and thoughtful. Remember that you were born equipped to handle whatever life hands you, including those who do not share in your beliefs. It is in our differences that we learn and evolve as a human species. Recognize when you are acting from a place of fear rather than faith it is important to stop, reassess the situation and yourself, and consciously choose a more confident and loving behavior. Doing so will make any situation more relaxed and enjoyable for everyone.
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