What To Do If You Don’t Like Being Teased – Life Skills
I’ve spent a couple of weeks on roasting. Seems like a good time to turn the table and look across it from the other side. This post is about teasing, and specifically, what to do if you have a hard time with it. I’m not talking about sexual teasing. And I’m not talking about adverteasing (advertising!) I’m talking about put downs, insults and innuendo.
First, let me tell you, I empathize. I grew up a thin skinned boy. I got my feelings hurt, took everything personally, and got rubbed the wrong way on way too many occasions. I got past it, and so can you. You can even learn to like it! And you probably should. Because expecting the world to walk on eggshells to protect your sensibilities is too much to ask, and there are too many people who just don’t care.
A couple of years back, I had the pleasure of working with my local city council over a five month contract. The city paper made as much of it as they could, with a message board that anyone could post on anonymously. The things people said there were ridiculous. At their face, they were horrible, hateful messages seeking to impugn my character. Some of them implied knowledge of me they could not possibly have, and some took cheap shots at every opportunity.
And you know what I did? Nothing. I didn’t reply. I didn’t post. I didn’t complain. In fact, I had a good laugh about it, thanks to my brother, who told me that he suspected the several loudmouths taking shots anonymously were actually one very feeble and tremendously fat guy with no life, who was sitting around in his sweatpants trying to find some excitement. Then my brother told me he was heading off to go put on his sweatpants and post something on the message board.
If you don’t like to be teased and sniping remarks wound you, here’s the danger. It could become common knowledge that you’re an easy target. And once word gets out, a time may come when someone will try to take advantage of your weakness. Witness the way grade school kids torment each other, and you’ll see that the most vulnerable ones take the brunt of the teasing! The real bullies practically have radar for these easy targets. And every time you react to the teasing, you’ll be setting yourself up, offering aid, comfort and encouragement to those who relish the chance to dish out more of the same.
It doesn’t stop there. Maybe you have impulse control problems that happen simultaneously. Been there. Provoked in this way, you may want to lash out blindly before you run away. Here’s what you need to know. Fight or flee, the person teasing you in spite will extract a victory from your defeat.
Now, you could tease back. But if that’s your choice, be warned: If you’ve never learned how to say obnoxious things in a humorous way to people engaged in a war of words and wit, your half-hearted attempts at revenge will surely backfire on you.
I have a better idea. You can’t get teasing to stop, and you’re going to have to learn how to live with it. Doing so has a tremendous upside. If someone taking cheap shots at you can’t get a rise out of you, then teasing you loses its value to them.
The attitude to develop is one of amused curiosity. Instead of taking it personally, get curious enough to focus on the person doing the teasing instead of yourself. Wonder what it is all about for them, instead of what it feels like for you! Here are a couple of reasons why someone might tease you:
1. People who tease may actually like you a lot, and this is their way of showing it. I was watching the terrific TV show, ‘Rescue Me’ last night, and enjoying the way the crew on the truck was relentless in their teasing of each other. It’s obvious they care about each other deeply, but have issues showing their true feelings, so they couch them in what otherwise would be the most odious and hateful comments on each other’s character, motives and the like.
2. The need to give others a hard time may be a symptom of their own insecurity. They may put others down as a way of puffing themselves up. So you may find some humor in their behavior by seeing the tease as an insecure grade schooler, a mere child grown tall who, lacking the social graces, is left to make faces.
Perhaps you recall the single best response to sarcasm: “I know you are, but what am I?” or the second best response, “I am rubber and you are glue and anything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” Thinking these thoughts can be a great help. Difficult as it may be to believe, saying them can too!
Carl teased Carrie mercilessly in meetings. Carrie was embarrassed by it, and really wished he would stop. But every time she asked him to, he would tease her for asking. So she changed it up, and did something unexpected. One day, after a particularly demeaning comment, she said in a child-like voice: “I know you are, but what am I.” Everyone in the meeting laughed at the exchange except Carl, who honestly seemed stumped by it. Carrie had lightened things up with honor, discharged her discomfort, and revealed Carl’s childish behavior for what it was in one easy line. Carl, clearly not amused, never did it again.
If teasing really gets to you, learn to master your own responses. Find someone to serve as a model of calm and collected and imitate their demeanor. Or, mentally change history by reviewing the memory of a time when someone teased you, only this time, relax into it and have some fun with it.
If you can’t laugh at it, at least you can learn to laugh it off.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.