Teasing!

I ain’t good at much in the whole realm of human interactions, but I rock at teasing.
The venerable Gretchen posted on teasing the other day. Gretchen mentioned that there wasn’t a lot of sarcasm or teasing in her home growing up and that it made for a harmonious atmosphere. The picture of that makes me want to drink bug spray. Ugh. My childhood home was full of teasing and sarcasm and I laughed my butt off almost every day of my childhood… and I still do. I love humor. For me, it gives life color.
But teasing is tricky. It can be a tool for good or a tool for evil – which is the point Gretchen was making, I think.
I think I am good at teasing, so passing this onto the thousands of future leaders of America who read this blog:
Before you try to tease, make sure you can do these things – these are the prerequisites:
1. Listen to other people without interrupting.
2. Avoid disparaging the person you are talking with to their face.
3. Show interest in something that is not interesting to you but is interesting to the person you are talking to.
4. Don’t give unsolicitied “advice”.
5. If you have found yourself talking about yourself 10 minutes or more, do everything you can to draw the other person out to talk about himself.
6. Don’t view other people as your audience.
Here we go….
Tease people about the things they are proud of. If someone is a good mom, tease her about how she always has pictures of her kids in her purse (“When you are getting your wallet to pay for lunch, you don’t happen to have, I don’t know, a bazillion new pictures of cute kids for me to look at?”). If someone is a sharp dresser, tease him about how you can see your reflection in his shoes. If someone is detail-oriented, tease her about how clear and well-written her email was.
Let me break down my knowledge on teasing with an example:
Renita is a social butterfly. She often talks about how she has a lot of friends she loves and she wishes she had more time to spend with friends. She lights up when she talks about her social life.
After having a handful of conversations with Renita where I would joke about myself, but never about her, I would feel like I am ready to do some kiss-ass, kick-ass (KAKA) teasing. For Renita I would say “I am so glad I am getting to talk to you… you are so often surrounded by adoring fans, I am happy to be in the inner circle.”
NAILED it!! That is a KAKA tease. And I am totally copywriting that phrase and going on a national book tour.
What are the key elements? I KNOW Renita is proud of being a social butterfly and I teased her on this thing she is proud of. It wouldn’t work if I didn’t know for sure that Renita was proud of her social accumen… before teasing somebody on something I make sure they are proud of it in words they have said directly to me.
Never ever ever tease someone about something you are not sure they are proud of… never ever. That is making fun at somebody’s expense, even if you call it “teasing”… A huge example from my life that confronts me almost every working day:
I work a lot of hours. I work weekends and evenings when needed and I still don’t get enough done. I worry constantly that I am not meeting all of the needs at work or at home – that I am failing in both places because I don’t have enough time for either.
There are a couple of people at work who tease me regularly about how I should take on a task because I don’t have enough to do. I am guessing they think the opposite and that is why they are teasing me… but I never know for sure and it adds to insecurity about something I already am really insecure about. I hates it. I want to put a banana cream pie in their face when they tease me about it. And that is my impulse on the *good* days.
Ok, so that is teasing 101… basically a compliment delivered in a light-hearted way that shows you have learned what someone loves well enough to make a joke about it. I told you I rocked at teasing.
Are you ready for some advanced knowledge? I know you are.
Don’t tease somebody about one thing more than occasionally. Intersperse it with other KAKA teases about other aspects of them. Otherwise it might seem like you don’t really admire that trait you are teasing them about.
Tease yourself. I try to make jokes about my foibles because I think it makes me more likable, approachable. Luckily I have a crapload of foibles. Some people will see that as a sign of weakness, but I think not being able to laugh about yourself doesn’t show strength, just a lack of perspective. We all are absurd in our own ways.
Speaking of, some people shouldn’t be teased. They will never find it funny and they preferred to be taken seriously. If you love or like them, make peace with it. When you tease, ALWAYS watch the person’s reaction, especially if you are in a group. You can tell when it isn’t cool. Most people who don’t like to be teased, or at least teased about that thing, put a lukewarm smile on their face, advert their eyes, and shake their head slowly side to side…. doing their best to be a good sport. After a bad tease, quickly repair the relationship by making a joke about yourself. Even if someone historically has responded well to teasing, still be diligent about gauging the reaction. This means you.
Never ever say “Awww…. lighten up.” I will find you. Does that person need to lighten up or do you need to stop being a doodoo jerkhead who cares more about cracking yourself up then buidling good relationships? That’s what I thought.
I leave you with this… one of my favoritest quotes. I have been fighting the urge to photocopy it and put it on the windshields of some people I know:
“I appreciate people who are civil, whether they mean it or not. I think: Be civil. Do not cherish your opinion over my feelings. There’s a vanity to candor that isn’t really worth it. Be kind.”
—Richard Greenberg
(1958-); playwright

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