How to Deal With Teasing and Subtle Forms of Bullying

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“I’m just teasing.” Those words tend to be said a lot by friends, colleagues, and siblings. But are they as harmless as they sound? Do they really exonerate the teaser from being responsible for hurting other people’s feelings?


Some people use teasing as a playful way to feel closer to others or to show friendship. In other words, they only tease people with whom they are comfortable and generally tease about things that are shared between them as a little-known joke or action. Meanwhile, others are good at teasing as a way to bring up a difficult topic.

But sometimes it’s not fun to playfully tease someone or mock them, especially if the recipient doesn’t find it funny. When this happens, it is either under-eye bullying or a subtle form of bullying.

The best test of whether teasing is friendly is if the person on the line finds the action funny and is smiling. If the person being teased doesn’t laugh, the teasing is over and you can apologize.

In fact, research shows that while people often tease each other, it’s quite common for those who are being teased to misunderstand the intentions of the person who is teasing them. They remember the signs that the teasing is being done affectionately and because the teaser likes them.

Instead, the good intentions of the teasers are not clear and the person being teased often feels like the comments are malicious and offensive. When this happens, everyone feels uncomfortable.

When teasing hurts

It’s not uncommon for friends to joke around and tease each other emotionally. If someone in the group does something silly or has a funny saying, friends will naturally like them about it. In general, most people are kind to be made fun of because of the trust and friendship that already exists.

Regardless of the good intentions, sometimes teasing can hurt the recipient and make him or her hurt.

Perhaps the teasing was centered around an area they were already interested in and having friends point it out would only complicate the situation. Whatever the reason, the person being teased will feel confused and uncertain about themselves. Their self-esteem suffers as well as their resilience.

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When this happens, it’s easy to blame the target and say they need to “learn to joke” or “shouldn’t be too sensitive”. But a better way to deal with hurt feelings is to take responsibility and apologize. Blaming the person being teased only makes the situation more uncomfortable and can damage a healthy friendship.

Cross the road

Sometimes, when people are “just teasing” or “just joking,” they are actually being mean and bullying. They hide behind the words “just teasing” to get away with using phrases with subtle connotations. In these cases, the teasing crosses the line and becomes bullying. This type of teasing, or relationship aggression, is especially common in groups and among mean girls.

Some possible forms of malicious teasing or bullying include:

  • Engaging in name-calling or harmful defamation of some kind such as humiliation and humiliation.
  • Making cruel or unpleasant statements about others.
  • Making jokes disguised as jokes.
  • Use sarcasm to ridicule others.
  • Humiliate others by focusing on a known sensitive topic and not skipping it.
  • Hidden behind the words, “I was just joking!” or “Don’t be too sensitive!”
  • Allowing someone to be part of a group, like a group, gives the group someone to laugh and mock. People are kept around to entertain the whole group.
  • Make fun of someone with non-funny things like weight, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

Remember, nice jokes often revolve around a very small joke or something stupid that someone said or did that both of you find funny. If you’re experiencing subtle forms of teasing or bullying at work, at school, at home, or online and you want it to stop, here are some ways to deal with it.

Ask them to stop

A good indication of the intent behind the teasing is how your friends, family, or co-workers react when you ask them to stop. Look for signs that they empathize with you. Also, do they take responsibility, apologize, and then walk away, or do they mock you for being hurt? Or worse yet, do they laugh and annoy you even more?

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If you have explicitly asked them to stop and they continue, remove yourself from the situation.

In other words, walk away or leave the room. Trying to explain yourself or argue your point will only make you more teased. Then, after you’ve cooled down a few, decide how you want to handle future interactions with them.

If teasing is a regular occurrence between friends and you’ve always been your goal, then maybe it’s time to start hanging out with new people. If it’s happening at work, take a closer look at the work relationship to determine if you’re dealing with a bully at work or a mean girl at the office. If it’s a family bully, you may have to set boundaries to reduce the teasing you experience.


Too many times when people tell someone to stop teasing them, they don’t communicate forcefully and the message gets confused. Make sure you’re assertive when it comes to teasing, leave you alone or leave it alone. You don’t have to be confrontational, but you should be direct.

Also, don’t confuse the issue by downplaying your hurt feelings and the fact that you don’t want to be teased anymore. While you don’t need to elaborate on all the ways that teasing hurts your feelings, you do need to make sure they know that it’s annoying, it’s not funny, and that you want it to stop.

If they continue to tease you about the same issue later, remind them that you don’t like it and that they should stop doing it. Stand your ground if you don’t like being teased. And don’t let them blow you away. Just remember to be friendly and confident when reminding them.

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Remember that if you have healthy friendships and healthy work relationships, you won’t have to worry about what they think. If you’re really uncertain about how your friends or colleagues will react, they could be bullies.

The sooner you realize you’re being bullied and deal with the situation, the better off you’ll be.

Protect yourself

Sometimes, people act silly or say silly things to get teased. To some extent, they enjoy the attention or affection that accompanies joking around. But on another level, it really upsets them.

If you’re someone who doesn’t like being teased, make sure you refrain from doing silly things or telling weird stories about yourself. You should also avoid making fun of or putting yourself down in conversations. These types of activities confuse friends and colleagues. They may interpret your words and actions as an invitation to tease you.

You can also set yourself up for teasing if you want to mingle with a new group of friends at work or school. In this case, you’re so eager to be part of a group that you’re happy to accept the role of someone everyone rips off. However, after a while, teasing can take a toll on your self-esteem. Don’t let your desire to be famous or popular stop you from getting the respect you deserve.

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