when joking teasing is a trigger

Anonymous said to :

Having grown up with abuse, and having been in an abusive relationship after that, I have a lot of trouble dealing with “normal” teasing. I was used to being accused of all kinds of terrible things out of the blue. So if, for example, I accidentally take something that belongs to someone else, and they say, “Haha, you just wanted it for yourself!” I want to cry and beg forgiveness. I’m terrified and I can’t laugh. I feel I can’t ask people not to tease me, but I don’t know how to deal with it.

realsocialskills said:

It’s ok to be bothered by this, and it’s ok to tell your friends not to tease you.

Playful teasing is only friendly if everyone likes it. A lot of people don’t like it, and a lot of people don’t do it. It’s entirely possible to be friends without insulting or teasing one another. If someone teases someone who they know hates it, that’s not a joke anymore, it’s just being mean. It’s not ok to be mean to other people for fun.

It’s ok to say “I don’t like jokes like that; please don’t say things like that to me.” You don’t have to explain in order for it to be ok to tell people to stop teasing you. Continuing to do stuff like that is already a jerk move, even if people don’t know your history. Not liking it is a good enough reason.

It’s also ok if you do want to disclose (and for some people, it might make it more likely that they’ll take it seriously and realize how important it is not to make jokes like that with you). But you don’t have to disclose in order for it to be legitimate to insist that people stop. If you do want to disclose, it’s usually better if it’s not in the heat of the moment, but when you’re relatively calm.

Most people don’t want to say intentionally hurtful things to their friends. Some people realize that some people find playful teasing hurtful, and will readily stop if you tell them you don’t like it. Some people don’t understand that some people don’t like it, and will probably have to be reminded several times before they take it seriously. Some people are mean and will keep saying things like that to you even after you say to stop, and some people might even start saying them more because they think it’s funny that it bothers you. Part of the solution to this might be to make sure you’re hanging out with people who care about treating you well, as much as possible. Having friends who are kind makes life a lot better on a number of levels.

A possible script for disclosing:

  • “Hey, I know you weren’t intending it but playful teasing and joke insults really scare me. Too many people in my life have accused me of ludicrous things in order to hurt me, so I have trouble telling when it’s a joke and I tend to freak out. Can you please not say things like that to me?”

Another possibility: finding ways to tell whether they mean it or not:

Think about the person you’re with, and what’s likely to be their intention:

  • How well do you know the person you’re with?
  • Have you seen them joke insult people before?
  • Have you seen them actually aggressively accuse people of ludicrous things out of the blue?
  • If you’ve seen them tease people in a way intended to be friendly and haven’t seen them make horrible baseless accusations out of the blue, they’re probably not trying to hurt you
  • That doesn’t make it ok, and it doesn’t mean you’re wrong to object
  • But it does mean that they’re probably not trying to hurt you, and you’re probably not in any danger 

Look at body language:

  • This isn’t possible for some people who get scared in this situation, but it can work for some people
  • Look at their face: Does it have an angry expression, or do they look happy?
  • Look at their hands: Are they held in a way that looks angry or violent, or do they look like they’re just socializing?
  • Think about their tone of voice: Did they sound mad? Was their voice raised? Or are they talking in a tone that seems more friendly?
  • (Many people have a specific tone of voice that they only use for teasing or joke insults)
  • Are they looking at you in a way that’s demanding an answer?
  • If their body language and tone of voice doesn’t seem aggressive, they probably didn’t mean the words they said aggressively either.

Check how other people are reacting:

  • Do other people seem to notice the offense you’ve supposedly committed, or are they continuing the conversation they were already having?
  • Does anyone look mad, or do they just look like people socializing?
  • Have other people in the group stopped what they’re doing to look at you, or are they continuing as they were?
  • If other people in the group don’t look mad, or don’t look much interested, the teasing was probably meant as a joke rather than a serious insult or accusation

Another possibility: using a standard script to create some distance:

  • It can help to immediately change the subject when someone says something like that
  • If they were just joking around, they will likely be receptive to the subject change
  • Changing the subject can show you that you are safe and not under attack
  • It can be hard to find words in the moment to change the subject
  • It might help to memorize some subject-changing scripts and use standard ones every time this happens
  • Then you won’t have to think of something to say in the moment while you are freaking out
  • Which scripts are most effective will depend on you and your group
  • (This post on deflecting fight-pickers has a lot of subject-change scripts.)
  • You can also change the subject back to what people were talking about before
  • Eg: “So, you were saying about the cats we’re all here to talk about? What do you think about the fluffy ones? I see your point about their hair getting matted easily, but they’re so pretty and soft.”

Another possibility: asking what they meant:

  • Sometimes you can defuse fear by asking people whether they mean it
  • ie: “Do you really think I was just trying to take it for myself?”
  • This can be awkward, but it can also be effective
  • Whether or not it’s a good idea depends on your friend groups
  • Some people might get offended and sarcastically say yes, of course they think that.
  • If you can’t read sarcasm when you’re scared, this might backfire
  • But when it works, it can work really well

It would probably also be a good idea to work on having perspective when other people are angry at you. Your friends and people close to you will be angry at you sometimes. That doesn’t always mean that you’re in danger or that they are going to hurt you. It also doesn’t always mean that you have done something wrong. Finding anger more bearable will help you in a lot of aspects of your life, including when people tease you. If anger is less terrifying, teasing will also be less terrifying.

tl;dr Teasing is only friendly if everyone likes it. Doing it to people who don’t like it is mean. It’s ok not to want to be teased or insulted, even as a joke. It’s ok to ask people to stop. Some people will take that request seriously and some won’t. (Everyone should, but not everyone does). If teasing scares you because you have trouble telling the difference between real insults and joke insults, there are things you can learn to look for that make it easier to tell the difference. It also helps to learn how to keep perspective in the face of other people’s anger. Scroll up for some more concrete information.

Having people over for dinner





One potentially enjoyable form of interaction is to have people over for dinner.

Some ways this can be good:

  • Eating together can make conversation easier
  • Since it creates an activity and a focus
  • But it doesn’t take up all the attention; you can still talk
  • Eating at home can be cheaper than going out
  • It can also be less overloading, since your place is probably less noisy than a restaurant 
  • It can also be more private, because you’re less likely to run into unwelcome people, and because there aren’t as many people around who could overhear

Some things about guests:

  • Invite people who you like
  • Invite people who like each other
  • It’s not very much fun to hang out with a group of folks who dislike one another, even if you like all of them separately
  • Don’t invite too many people. It’s much more fun to have dinner with a group of people that’s a comfortable size for you
  • It’s often considered rude to invite someone but not their partner, with two major exceptions:
  • If you’re hosting a single-gender event and their partner isn’t the relevant gender, or:
  • If you’re hosting an esoteric interest gathering and it’s something only one of them likes. (Eg: If you’re having a party for people who like to talk about spiders, it’s probably ok to not invite a partner who hate spiders)

Some points about food etiquette: 

If you are in your 20s and living in the US, it’s likely that you’re in a culture in which it’s normal for guests to bring some of the food. (This is different from a potluck, which is a communally-hosted kind of meal at which no one person has primary responsibility for making the food. I’m planning to write a different post about that later.)

If you are invited over for a meal:

  • It’s considered polite to offer to bring something
  • The most polite way to ask is to say something along the lines of “What can I bring?” because it suggests that you’re expecting to bring something rather than hoping they’ll tell you not to bring anything
  • If they say not to bring anything, don’t
  • Some people prefer that you don’t, or might have cultural or medical reasons to want control over the food that’s in their space
  • Also, in some cultures it’s considered rude, so if someone doesn’t want you to bring something, it’s important to respect that

If you are doing the inviting:

  • It’s usually considered rude to ask people to bring things if they haven’t explicitly offered to
  • If people offer, it’s ok to assume that they mean it, and to ask them to bring something
  • But be reasonable about it. Don’t ask people to bring something expensive or complicated unless you are planning the meal together and hosting jointly
  • It’s usually considered reasonable to ask someone to bring one of these things: bread, wine, salad, soda/juice, or a dessert

Some specific things about food:

  • You should make/buy a main dish that is filling and has protein of some sort
  • And also probably a side dish or two
  • And drinks of some sort - but it’s ok if it’s mostly water
  • Make sure you have enough plates/cups/knives/forks/spoons/etc for everyone
  • Find out if people you’re inviting are allergic to anything
  • If you are serving meat, find out if there are any vegetarians
  • If some people are vegetarian, it’s nice to make a vegetarian protein in addition to the main meat dish
  • But in any case, at least make sure that some things don’t contain meat (eg: don’t put bacon bits on the salad or use lard to make a pie)

This is a good kind of gathering. Are there other things people should know about how to do it?

dinosaurusrachelus said:

Depending on the type of event and the age of participants, it’s often considered polite to bring a bottle of wine even if the host says you don’t need to bring anything. It’s not a thing you have to do, but if you’re able to afford it and think it would be appreciated by the host and other guests, it’s nice. Providing alcohol for a gathering or dinner can get expensive quickly, so it’s a nice way to take some of that burden off a host without making them ask you to.

In addition to vegetarians, it might be nice to ask if anyone’s vegan, gluten free or lactose intolerant, since those are fairly common dietary restrictions. Most vegans are used to not having a ton of options and will often gladly eat side dishes or salad in my experience, but it’s polite to ask so you can make minor modifications to dishes. For example, if you were going to make a salad with greens, nuts, feta and dressing, you could put the feta on the side if someone’s vegan so they’re still able to eat the salad.

realsocialskills said:

It can be polite to bring wine, but be careful about that. It can put the host in a bad position if they’ve intentionally decided not to serve alcohol and you show up with an unexpected bottle of wine.

Agreed about other dietary issues. That’s a good thing to do.

I don’t know if this is a thing? But? A friend of mine hosted a potluck, and she brought out each dish *individually.* Like, courses? It was super-awkward, because people brought different amounts of each dish, like an enormous pasta dish and then a small fish dish. And then the dinner dragged on forever, and some dishes weren’t served at the right temperatures. Plus, it made people feel obligated to eat things they didn’t want, just because everyone was passing the plate around and it seemed rude not to take it. 

So, don’t do this. Either make the dinner a buffet (which is the easiest type of party for everyone, imo, both practically and emotionally) or put out all the dishes at once. It doesnt’ matter if all the food doesn’t go together, people can decide how they want to eat, or they can get up for seconds if they don’t want to eat two particular flavors together.

Another thing: especially with a buffet or appetizers, plan for how people eat, including grazers. For example, if you put out shelled nuts or endamame, put out an empty bowl so people can discard the empty shells. If you have a communal pot of coffee, you can cut down on dishes by setting out a few stirring spoons on a saucer and one spoon in the sugar. Most people will have enough sense to spoon sugar with the dry sugar spoon, and stir with the wet stirring spoon, and then leave it on the saucer for the next person. 

When doing a buffet: tell people to arrive about 45 minutes before you set out dinner. Have appetizerrs set out at the arrival time. After everyone except people who are chronically late have arrived, announce that dinner is being put out (you can dispatch helpful people to round up far-flung guests outside, in the tv room, etc). About 45 minutes after dinner has started, start putting away perishables. Ask people if they want seconds, etc. Depending on what dessert is and the time-table for the party, dinner cleanup and dessert can happen anywhere from half an hour to two hours after that. 

If it’s a daytime party, brew coffee after dinner. There’s always people who get tired at parties or didn’t sleep well, or whatevever. Everyone likes coffee at parties.