Lost in Translation? – Irony, Sarcasm and Humor

With the globalization and internationalization of company activities, it has also become important to know the attitudes, habits, and customs of different countries, to avoid gaffes, embarrassing situations or to jeopardize people’s susceptibility.

But before understanding what happens elsewhere, we are sure to have grasped some differences in attitude that we instead use, sometimes, with superficiality in our own country or work environment? For example, irony, humor, and sarcasm are often used as synonyms, but they do not represent the same thing at all. Instead, it is different ways to capture paradoxical and contradictory aspects of reality and to communicate them in interpersonal relationships.

Irony is a way of expressing emotions that are in part aggressive and conflictual, “dilating” them in the hilarity, often shared, thus deploying their destructive charge. Compared to sarcasm, irony is less aggressive. The sarcasm has the connotation of an attack directed against another person preserving all the aggressive charge that this entails. On the other hand, irony expresses a comic aspect of the other and of reality in a more subtle and indirect way and, therefore, more easily shared by those who receive it.

However, it is with humor that one has the possibility to place an optimal distance from aggressive emotionality by soliciting a thought, a shared reflection on the contradictions that are being grasped.

With irony one laughs “of the other”, with the humor one laughs “with the other”.

Only if we can carefully use these behaviors in an environment more familiar to us, we can better understand the weight that differences in cultures can have in different environments.

Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.




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