Saturday, July 25, 2009

Teasing: Can I Do It While Following the Golden Rule

I am an instinctive tease. I was raised with five sisters and now have four daughters, and that hasn't helped curb my teasing nature. There are times when I have gone overboard very obviously, and I have felt real remorse at those times, but my resolution this month has made me ask the very fundamental question:
Can I tease someone else, even if I smile when I do so, and still follow the Golden Rule?

I have little time right now, so I only will leave my initial reaction:

Perhaps, but only if it is done in a way that causes NO pain to the person I am teasing.
That can be hard to determine, so I should be extremely careful in doing so - if I can do so at all.

I really would like input on this question from anyone who reads this post.


ellen said...

ray, i have a friend who thinks being funny is more important than the feelings of the one he teases. nothing is that funny.

following the golden rule is certainly a good guideline, but some are much thinner skinned than others, whether it shows or not. even if i laugh when you tease me, it still might sting a bit.

many of my friends would tell you they think i'm funny. but in the last 10 years or so, i have simply dropped teasing. even when i was careful to try not to hurt someone's feelings, i still singled that person out in a way they may not have appreciated. and really, there were precious few comments that were so funny that the world would have crumbled to dust if it couldn't have heard them.

teasing CAN be an amusing way to pass along a compliment indirectly. but i found i got much better mileage by simply paying the compliment overtly.

i'm sure you are sensitive enough to avoid saying something that might hurt someone even if it is a very funny line. i guess i'm just confirming what you are suggesting, which is that it's hard to know how someone really feels about being teased, regardless of how they appear to feel.

Anonymous said...

I like to be teased and I liek to tease but only certain people. I don't know why I think I can feel who can handle it and who can't so there is a person and a half I allow myself to tease: my youngest sister and my RS president (the last one being the 'half" person because I don't tease her on many subjects).
To me when someone teases me it is because I have said or done something that has catch this person's attention. Either I have done something good or I have done something funny/ridiculous/that I should laugh about. And I do laugh about it. Lacking of people who can tease me I sometimes have to tease myself. Yes I know. I am sure you'd like to be around when I do this to spare me this energy and help me in this task.
Anyway, I really can't help.
I have not always been the kind who likes to be teased. When my ego was much more fragile teasing was just plain mean.
So I don't know...maybe if you tease people only on things that YOU KNOW is their strong point you can still enjoy it and be sure there will be no harm done.

Ardis said...

Teasing by its nature is intensely personal -- you simply can't tease without its being a reflection on someone's looks or behavior or brains or affiliation or fears or whatever other personal characteristic is the subject of your teasing. Teasing can be fun for everybody if its goal is the same as any other positive personal remark, to praise or show appreciation or make a friendly connection. When it turns to belittling, though, it's no more acceptable than any other personal insult. "I was just teasing!" is no defense.

And unfortunately for us teasers, whether or not teasing is positive or negative doesn't always rest with our own intentions. We might think something is cute, but the object of the tease may be embarrassed. The object of the tease really gets to decide whether it was kind or mean-spirited.

You, Ray, I think can get away with more than some of us, because you're so good natured in general. But other people can tease with a smile while still being as hateful and hurtful as if they had swung a club. The smile isn't what makes the difference.

Christy said...

I come from a family of teasers. I think the teasing I endured was often mean spirited. I also think that the little teasing I do to my children is out of love. They may say otherwise. I do think there are times when teasing is a way to bond as a family. Sometimes when we are sitting around we may joke about ourselves and each other in loving ways. I think we need to discern when it is appropriate and when it is not. Good luck.

Papa D said...

Thank you, everyone, for your input. It has given me much to consider. I appreciate it.

Jen said...

It can be hard to tell how a person on the teasing end is taking it so I think it is better to avoid it in many cases unless you are quite sure that the other person is enjoying it and not feeling put down or embarrassed. I think it is especially important to be careful when it comes to children and teenagers. They are senstive to things that adults may not even be thinking about.

This is coming from a person who has teased a lot of people in her life and continues to do so. I can say though that I have learned a lot about how to tease and to be careful, but I am not perfect by any means. I do know that it can be a fun way to interact with others if done in a spirit of love.

Matthew said...

Hmm. I thought this would be a nice simple response, being something of a tease myself (and also liking to be teased). However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized there were some clear guidelines that I have learned (through painful experience) to follow.

Major identifiers for me are whether I know a person and whether I like a person. If the answer to either question is no, then I am very unlikely to tease them. Typically, the more I like a person, the more likely I am to tease them.

Secondly, age is a factor. I am much less likely to tease someone who is older than me, more likely to tease someone the same age or younger than me.

The situation is important: formal v. informal, public v. private, serious v. casual. Something that would be funny or acceptable in one situation may not be so in another. I sometimes still don't quite get this one right. :S

The most important thing to me, as Ardis has already mentioned, is the object of the tease. Do they like being teased? Some people just don't, and that needs to be respected. Do they have the necessary skills to process non-literal thought? Are they in an immediate state of mind that can deal with teasing?

I work in an elementary school, so I have to be really on top of where the kids' minds are if I intend to tease them, especially if there are developmental delays involved. To simplify things for myself, I have gotten into the habit of really overemphasizing the body language and intonation that lets them know I am teasing, especially with the younger kids. I have also shifted away from making personal observations (except about myself, of course :D), and my teasing tends to be more the outrageous/silly comments variety.

Ultimately, I think that teasing is fine, as long as all concerned understand, in the moment, that the intent behind the words is affectionate, and as long as all concerned are willing participants. I am getting better at making sure that my intent is clear, although I still misjudge it sometimes. Generally, I find that the stronger the relationship is, the better I know a person, the easier all this is to figure out, so that is my starting point. Develop the relationship, save the funnies until there is a context in which to put them.

Anyway, these are some of my thoughts. Sorry for the length of my post, but it was a really thought provoking question. :)

Tatiana said...

I love teasing, too, and being teased. At one job I worked at, we all teased each other constantly. It was a great way to bond for us. I was a little sensitive at first, and several times when I reacted defensively people had to say to me "no I'm teasing you". But really it's a way of saying <3<3<3 without being mushy.

I totally agree that some people (and I guess I've been guilty of this at times too) can think of something too funny not to say, even if it's hurtful. I think being funny is far less important than people's feelings, so I'm probably too careful in this direction. I remember being teased mercilessly as a child when the intent was to wound and not to show love. So I tend to be extra careful in that way.

But with certain people teasing becomes a silly fun way to interact. I tend to love those people very much. :)

Ardis said...

Apparently when I was an itty bitty thing, I figured out the truth about Santa through logical means and insisted on reasoning my tender-hearted older brother out of his lingering beliefs. My parents used to tease me about that every Christmas. Nobody will ever love me as much as they did, and I know that they were in fact proud of my logical lil' self, but teasing about that always made me feel bad because I realized I had spoiled something for a little boy who had wanted to believe. Once I finally told my parents how bad I felt about it -- and I was well into my 20s before I did -- they never teased me about it again.

Just an example of how teasing can hurt, even when you mean it affectionately.

Anonymous said...

Teasing is indeed a tricky thing. If we tease someone about their strengths it can make them uncomfortable about those strengths and reluctant to display them. (which is not what we want because we need people's strengths). If we tease people about their weaknesses, they may become reluctant to admit them and feel like they have to be on their guard around us.

If I'm going to tease, I like to tease in a complimentary way by exaggerating the person's strengths.

Example: My husband is good with computers and likes to fix cast-off computers others give away.

Me: (exaggerated plotting genius voice when my husband gets another computer) I will collect all the dead computers in the world, resurrect them, and network them together and take over the planet! Zombie server farm!

I'm sure that if you do some praying about teasing and ask Heavenly Father to help you tell the difference between teasing that hurts and teasing that builds people up, He will help you.

Ron said...

President Hinckley once teased Elder Maxwell that his handwriting was "unreformed Egyptian," getting a roar from Elder Maxwell and the others present (I don't know who was in the group, but some of the Brethren). Elder Maxwell's penmanship was notoriusly difficult to decipher, even for his experienced personal secretary.

It seems to me that the key would be the same principles governing other types of relationships (closing verses of D&C 121). We need a sound relationship to start with; the person needs to feel secure and trusted. And whenever there's teasing, it should be followed with an "increase of love."

Teasing can be an effective means of strengthening bonds. It can also be an effective means of gentle correction. Of course, that presupposes that the teasing is well-intentioned, not mean-spirited.

Chauncey C. Riddle, deceased philosophy professor at BYU and one of the brightest, most humble men I've ever met, commented once about the "devastating cruelty" of elementary schools. He was speaking to a relatively small group, mostly home-schoolers, and it was clear from his words and their intensity that he had been the subject of extremely cruel teasing as a boy.

For me, that raises the question: If there is no (well-intentioned, love-filled) teasing at home, are we adequately preparing our children for what they'll encounter at school and elsewhere?

You raise an interesting question.