Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Monday, January 2, 2012

Just teasing

Back in high school I had quite the wit, as did a few of my best friends.  At any given moment the gauntlet would be dropped, usually a not so subtle cut down delivered with confidence and a bit of premature gloating as though the most cleaver and indefensible witticism had been unleashed on our hapless peer who surly would concede defeat to satirical superiority.

Of course a retort salvo delivered with impunity was the only possible response, and expected response, despite the pretence of a no contest victory.

Each counter attack expanded the creative use of foul vulgarity, coaxing us to exercise our cerebral powers with more passion than any physics class could hope to muster.  The escalating exchange of zingers would bind our friendships more as we opened ourselves to benign thrusts that would surly emotionally injure the unprotected.  A deserved tip of the hat gesture or "touché" was the currency of trust and acknowledgement of "a good one" delivered into your court with such alacrity and venom that a return was not possible.. until the next serve.

These exchanges were like an episode of Seinfeld, in that they were essentially about nothing, but we sure laughed a lot. At the time I really enjoyed it.

Over time the one-upmanship banter lost its lustre and our conversations, as we navigated adolescent maturity, waded into the meaning of life, politics, as well as biceps, girls, and the myriad of subjects that randomly occupy the young soon to be adult mind.

This teasing in retrospect seems to be some kind of right of passage or perhaps pseudo intellectual conversation for those who are not yet comfortable enough or experienced enough to rely on meaningful exchanges to engage each-other.

An interesting conundrum with teasing is that while some research shows that the non-bullying type of teasing is seldom meant to be hurtful to the recipient, the recipient more often perceives the tease as hurtful. (1)

The explanation is that teaser knows what they are doing in advance, and the teased does not, making the delivered insult hard to see as benign most of the time.  Additionally, the person being teased is likely to perceive the teaser as disingenuous.. their clumsy delivery of an insult thinly disguised with humour displays a lack of ability to be conscientious.  The old "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything" applies here.

It seems that teasing, according to experts, has a better chance of working in a benign or even uplifting way if the tease is delivered with obvious openness instead of coy mischievousness, and between those who have accepted that teasing is ok between them.  Otherwise most of the time teasing is an epic failure for both teaser and teasee.  When this happens the teaser doesn't understand that being an a$$ isn't really a good idea, because they can't perceive how such behaviour is a$$-like.

Instead of diffusing the situation amicably the teaser will stubbornly raise the ante by delivering the quintessential socially inept accusatory question, "what, can't you take a joke?"

Take a joke.  As though the purpose of peoples existence is to be the wanting and diminutive recipient of the teasers put-down.  Or that the recipient is somehow implicitly expected to be indoctrinated into complying by gestating and delivering an equally dismissive comeback.

While truly benign teasing is fun, it's prone to failure if it's unexpectedly sprung on someone.. you need to be in tune with the person you're teasing to avoid either hurt feelings or being perceived as a jerk.

Aside from simply being annoying teasing can become bullying and harassment.

So why am I writing an article about this?  In the context of living healthy, our emotional health is of course of paramount importance.  Unless under the ideal scenarios I've described here, I've more often witnessed teasing be either hurtful or annoyingly inappropriate.

It seems that the chronic teaser lacks the ability to produce a genuine compliment or constructive criticism to others, always attempting to veil their social ineptness with humour, which makes it hard to take them seriously.

We all know how good it feels to receive a truly genuine compliment, and how it feels to be the butt end of joke, or to be annoyed by the eternal jester.

So if we all know this, wouldn't it be better to offer more genuine compliments to each-other?

I'm not talking about platitudes and phoney smiles.. no need to make up heartless anecdotes.  It really does make us feel better whether we are the ones doing the delivery, or are the recipient.. compliments and being good natured makes us feel good, not in a way that clouds judgment or plops rose coloured glasses on us, but simply feeling good.  What's wrong with that?

Research (2) shows that with practiced mindful thinking the part of our brain that allows us to be complimentary and compassionate grows larger while the part of our brain that processes being negative and judgmental shrinks.  Amazing.. through being genuinely nice to others our brain remodels to become more efficient at producing positive thoughts and less at producing negative thoughts.

Have you ever felt burdened by negative thoughts that seem to never go away?  Feel stressed about all the negative people out there?  Some of that negativity may be self generated. We can't really control others, and the world will always have unfair, rude, ne'er-do-wells, but what if there was something we had real control over that really did reduce our stress and leave us feeling happier more often?  There are a lot of things we can do to achieve this; one of them is being mindful of where our emotions come from, and how our actions may affect others.

 Next time you're thinking of delivering a zinger, think about something genuinely good about that person and say that instead.  You may be surprised how good you feel about being compassionate.  And while you may get the odd person wondering what you really want, the person on the receiving end will also feel a bit of a warm fuzzy.

Think this is too egalitarian or devoid of real practical usefulness?  Guess again.. Being positive and mindful of our own and others feelings has a place, and does contribute to better relationships, better efficiency in the work place, and less stress.  Additionally teasing is devastating to many people leading to eating disorders, self esteem challenges, depression, and suicide.  Not so funny hey?

Try it!  Give out genuine complements to someone today.  It has to be genuine though, otherwise it's phoney and counter productive.  You won't have to wait long.. Lot's of people do good things frequently.. when they do, that's your chance to pounce!  Carefully though.. overdo this and you might merely become an ideologue..

Spread some happiness :-)

(1) PsycNET - Display Record


Showing empathy to patients can improve care

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