For many years I have pondered the conundrum of teasing. You see, I like to tease people, and I also like to be teased back. I feel it is the sign of true friendship. However, there have been a number of times in my life, and I’m sure in yours too, where that teasing has backfired. This goes in either direction. I have had times where people have taken a tease too personally. I certainly on occasion have been upset by someone’s tease.

I believe teasing is a very important aspect of being human, As well as those points made in the video above, I believe teasing helps us to stop being serious all the time. Life is meant to be enjoyed and teasing can be the gentle nudge a person might need in order to realise they are taking an aspect of life too seriously.

So, the question remains, how do perfect the art of mockery? How do we tease without the target taking offence? I believe it comes down to two key things people overlook — often innocently — when they make these mistakes, relationship and identity.

Relationship

I don’t believe anyone can tease anybody, You can only truly tease someone where there is some recognition that you mean them no harm, This can only usually come about where the two people involved have a trust between each other, which in itself more often than not some kind of relationship between the two, friendship or otherwise. That mutual understanding of no harm can come in other ways, but usually, it takes time. Take Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars in 2014, she mocks and teases the stars throughout her opening monologue. Only once — with Liza Minelli — did you see anyone react adversely, and I’ll come to why I believe that one failed in a moment. What you see is that most of the people she teases are those most likely to have been on her daytime chat show, where she would have built up a rapport and friendship with each of those acts. But even if you look at those she teases those that are less likely to have been on her show, such as Barkhad Abdi, you see her understanding that you couldn’t go too personal, because there isn’t as much understanding between them, so she focuses more on his country or origin, This neatly leads me on to the second point.

Identity

A lot of the time when people are offended by a tease is where the teasing is some part of what makes them who they are. Earlier I referenced Liza Minelli in the clip above. Ellen jokes that she is actually a male Liza Minelli impersonator, and the joke fails to impress Minelli. I believe this is because it is too personal, too much about Minelli’s identity. Whereas the jokes Ellen makes at the expense of say, Jennifer Lawrence, where she references Lawrence’s clumsiness. This time it is taken in good humour by the target. This is partly because Jennifer Lawrence is self-deprecating in nature, but it equally because Jennifer Lawrence’s clumsiness isn’t an essential part of who she values herself to be.

Of course, the third reason why people often misfire is because they are unaware of any scars that might lie in the person’s past. A few days ago I made a slip up in front of friends, and they rightfully teased me, However, one person in the group took it into an area which is still a sore spot for me from my bullying days, and so it hurt more than the rest.

Self-Deprecation

There is, of course, one last aspect I want to touch on, and it is one that I referenced earlier when talking about Jennifer Lawrence, Self-Deprecation. You also find this with Ellen herself, and that is that they are as willing to tease and mock themselves as they are other people, and can also take as much as they get. What I have discovered is that those people who have a tendency to be quite serious about themselves, boosting their ego more than they are pulling themselves down. They are also the ones who hate being teased themselves.

So, please do tease, but do it with kindness in the eye, and understanding in the heart, and always be prepared to be on the receiving end of teasing.

Tom Turner

Tom Turner

Founder & CEO

Strength Restored is Tom’s baby. Born out of 8 years of being the target of bullies, Tom’s heart burns with a passion for seeing the lives of anyone touched by bullying turned around. Tom started working with children when he was only eleven himself, he then expanded into working with young people too, back in 2003. Tom has had the luck of being able to see bullying from all its angles, for not only was he the target of bullying, he also worked as a teaching assistant for a time, and so saw it from the teacher’s point of view too. All this experience has helped him construct Strength Restored, and truly he believes it could make a real impact.

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