I have a situation where a person is telling many jokes, but the problem is it is hard to tell when they are serious. How should this situation be handled?

They are an acquaintance that I work with. (This question is not on The Workplace as this is a more interpersonal issue.)

  • 3
    What makes it delicate? Can you please flesh-out your question a bit more?
    – Catija
    Jun 27, 2017 at 23:50
  • 1
    @Catija it ends up less delicate then I thought
    – user117
    Jun 27, 2017 at 23:52
  • 2
    You discovered this in three minutes?
    – Catija
    Jun 27, 2017 at 23:53
  • 2
    It is best to go light on details as they scan the internet for mentions of them and people have gotten fired over issues and comments on the internet. I would rather not risk anything yet
    – user117
    Jun 27, 2017 at 23:55
  • 2
    @Christopher I totally get it that's why I suggested fudging it - say it's a neighbour
    – user57
    Jun 27, 2017 at 23:57

1 Answer 1


You can always simply ask. I have had very good luck with, "Wait, I can't tell if you're being serious right now." Most people will immediately let you know, problem solved.

If the person systematically continues to give sarcastic answers to this question, usually there is something else going on. There may be anger issues, avoidance issues, or social stresses causing the behavior. Depending on the situation, you can again level with them.

In the most extreme cases, something is seriously wrong, and you may have to decide whether you enjoy being around this person or not. It is not your responsibility to fix anyone, but they often appreciate the company.

Good luck, friend!

  • As a person who likes to joke with serious face, I can say that it's indeed valid to just ask.
    – Alissa
    Jun 28, 2017 at 10:23
  • @Alissa indeed I am the same. I have a very dry sense of humour and often confuse people
    – user57
    Jul 14, 2017 at 10:31

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