I’m autistic, and I’ve learned to tease my friends as a social skill. I think it’s ok to tease your friends a little bit, but sometimes I think I go just a little bit too far.
My friends don’t say anything, though. The teasing has become sort of mechanical and ingrained at this point, but I want to learn how to not tease my friends so much.
Do you know how I can cut back on teasing my friends?
I think the most important thing is to make sure that your friends know you care how they feel. And to make sure that you’re paying attention to how they feel.
It’s ok to tease your friends so long as you’re both enjoying it. Making fun of one another in good-natured ways is part of a lot of friendships. What’s bad is to make fun of someone in a way that actually hurts them. If it hurts them, then it’s not friendly anymore, even if you didn’t mean to hurt them.
One rule of thumb is: don’t tease your friends about things they’re actually for-real painfully insecure about. That just ends up hurting.
It’s also important to pay attention to their reaction. If your friends are enjoying the teasing, they’ll likely respond back. If they’re not, they’ll likely not respond, or look upset. If they’re not actively looking like they’re into it, it’s a sign that you’ve probably crossed a line and hurt them. If that happens, back off and maybe apologize.
That goes double if your friends tell you it hurts them. A lot of people who either like hurting others or don’t care how people feel use fake-friendly teasing as a cover for being mean. When someone expresses hurt, they say things like “I was just kidding, don’t be so sensitive.” Don’t do that. If your friends are hurt by something you said about them, take that seriously and apologize. Everyone makes mistakes that hurt other people sometimes. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big deal.
It also might help to ask your friends what they think. Eg, by asking one of your friends something like “I think I’ve been going too far when I joke around. Do you think I’m upsetting people?”
Anyone else want to weigh in? How have you found ways to be kinder in your interactions with friends?
Another important thing to keep in mind is everybody’s mood at the time you want to tease them. People are generally more open to teasing when they’re happy and relaxed. If someone is stressed out or having a bad day there’s a bigger risk they won’t take it well. Sometimes you can lighten the mood by cracking a joke, but it can be hard to gauge whether it’s going to go over well. Something you think is innocuous can always be taken the wrong way, but especially if the person is already on edge.
Going hand-in-hand with this is tone. People sometimes think they’re saying something nicely but for whatever reason it either comes out or is received as nasty. The same remark can sound fun and jokey or rude and snarky depending on very small changes in voice, facial expression, and body language. Keep in mind too, even if you say something ostebsibly harmless in a nice-joking way, if the person is in a bad mood they can still take offense.
Sometimes when people are really hurt by your comments they’ll go quiet and act hurt, but sometimes they will lash out and mean-tease you back or even start a full-on argument. If you notice the joking has taken a harsh turn, try to think if you touched a nerve that might have set them off. If you did, and you apologize, it might inspire them to apologize back (it might not. Some people are too proud to apologize. This can lead to bigger problems.) This isnt to say if someone is mean to you that it’s your fault, but in some cases both parties do need to review their actions.