Is it Bullying or Playful Banter?

Bad behavior bullying children cartoon characters composition with a group of teenage girls laughing at their classmate vector illustration.

“Can’t you take a joke!”

Bullies are notorious for that line when targets speak out and call them out on their abuse. It’s the most manipulative and dangerous, and most popular excuse for crappy behavior because it uses social pressure to make the target out to be a party pooper who doesn’t know how to relax and have a good time.

Understand that bullies use this old, worn-out comeback to cover themselves and dupe bystanders and witnesses into believing that the abuse was just playful banter while making the victim look and feel like some dysfunctional whiner who’s just too sensitive and needs to lighten up.

But how do you know the difference between playful banter and bullying? Here are your answers:

1. There’s no power imbalance- With bullying, there’s always a power imbalance, and harm is intended. Also, the relationship is always harmful and abusive. Banter is done strictly among friends, family members- people with equal power. There’s no harm intended, and people who exchange banter have a positive and fulfilling relationship.

2. In banter, people respect you enough to stay away from your “no-go zones”- Your “no-go zones” are often called your hot buttons or triggers. These are things that you’re insecure about- something you’re embarrassed about, ashamed of, or can be any adverse experiences you’ve had in the past. In banter, people know to stay away from those areas and won’t bring them up.

On the other hand, bullies will deliberately zero in on things they know you’re insecure about and will only continue to bring them up in front of an audience when they see that you’re upset.

3. In a nutshell, it all comes down to how it makes you feel and your relationship with the other person! If the person is not a friend or family memberanyone you have a negative or hostile relationship with, they do NOT get the privilege to banter or joke with you! Ever!

Understand that banter is reserved for the people you feel good about (Close friends and family members)! Because they know your triggers and remember never to go near those tender areas!

4. Always read the person’s nonverbal body language- If the person is smirking and snickering instead of genuinely smiling and laughing out loud, that’s a sign of contempt, and it’s more than likely bullying instead of banter.

Sadly, anytime the bully plays the “Can’t-You-Take-A-Joke card, many targets are caught off guard and left speechless or paralyzed by humiliation. They’re left so upset they walk away feeling indignant because it’s sometimes difficult to adequately address the bully’s comeback without being made to look and feel even lower.

So, here is the perfect way to clap back at a bully who claims to be playing or joking and walk away feeling great about yourself and that you handled it like a boss!

Father told a funny story to his son.

You can shut him/her down by saying something to the tune of:

“Only my friends can joke with me like that! You’re not my friend, so you need to back off!”

Or,

“Newsflash! I don’t like you! You’re not my friend! So, you don’t get to say that, I don’t give a __ if you’re playing or not!”

And say it like you mean it! Then watch the bully pathetically slink away with their tail tucked between their legs! It has worked for me, and it’ll work for you too!

How it Feels to Be Bullied and Gaslighted

It’s not easy for people to distinguish between the real bully and the victim. Bullies are good at making victims look guilty, showing only the victim the worst, most brutal, and evil sides of themselves while showing everyone else their best, sweetest, and most loving halves of their personalities.

The bully may feign sympathy and compassion for her victim by making statements such as,
“I feel so terrible for (victim’s name). I sincerely hope she gets the help she needs before it’s too late.”

Bullies accuse their victims of attacking them when it’s the over way around, and people can quickly either get confused and not know who did what to who or blame the wrong person altogether.

Many times, if you’re a target of such torment, whether people believe you or not depends on their relationship with ou and with the bully. If the bully is someone they either like or love, they will, out of loyalty, take the bully’s word over yours. It won’t matter that the bully is in the wrong.

People tend to believe those they care about and disbelieve those they don’t care about or don’t know. Even worse, they may know that the person is, in fact, an abuser but still side with them against you if they like them even a little more than they do you.

Bullies aren’t stupid. They know what they’re doing. Often, they will act as a great person around everyone else. In public, they present as fine, exemplary, upstanding, and respectable human beings. But only the poor, demonized victim knows the truth.

Victims are usually stressed and worn down. If the bully has gaslighted them for long enough, he has persuaded they victim himself that it’s all his fault. Many targets of bullying have had their realities distorted over time, and it’s the worst thing to happen to them.

Many victims believe themselves to be horrible people and deserving of the torture inflicted upon them because many times, they’re blamed and made responsible for their suffering. That’s what bullying and gaslighting do after so long. They brainwash you!

That’s why Bullying and Gaslighting are such a deadly combination. Bullies and their allies force victims to believe that they’re so inherently evil that the only thing they can do is cause anger, hurt, and hatred.

Here’s what life is like for a target of such atrociousness:

You try. You try so hard to be the best person you can be. Yet you’re tortured and tormented by bullies every day. Deep inside, you know you’re a great person, but no one else can see inside you to make that determination.

Because your reputation is in the toilet, others consistently attack you because bullies have defamed you for so long that everyone believes the lies. And no one will tell you what you did wrong, nor will they tell you how to fix it.

And because of the constant attacks, you live in continuous fight-or-flight mode. You can’t help but stay on the defense, and you’re a mess of emotions.

Because bullying leaves you so emotional, you cry, even sob- sometimes uncontrollably! You lash out at the bullies who attack you and at the bystanders who join them after they’ve all pushed you so far.

Although your emotional reaction is entirely normal and natural under the circumstances, they all have the nerve, the audacity, the chutzpah- to get angry at you! That’s right! They get pissed at you for the emotional outburst and use it against you.

Even worse, they use any signs of self-defense against you. And they use it as their confirmations that you’re the bad guy, you’re too sensitive, too emotional, or that you’re crazy.

So, they punish you by escalating the bullying. How can a target- one who’s bullied to pieces and to the point of exhaustion- possibly defend himself against such forces if they don’t have any knowledge about how bullies operate and what they can do to counter them?

Understand that this is the plight of the target.

In bully-speak, targets are not allowed to be themselves. They’re not allowed to stand up for themselves nor speak out against the abuse. In the minds of bullies and bystanders, targets should take it, because they’re beneath everyone else and they deserve it. Bullies expect them to eat crap and enjoy it- just take it with a smile and a yes sir/ma’am, then ask for seconds.

Here’s another scenario to be aware of:

In some cases, you’re so marginalized and have so many people after you that when you’re in a crowded hallway and someone sneaks up behind you and wallops you between the shoulder blades hard enough to knock the wind out of you, and you look behind you to see who it was that hit you, no one points them out. The person who hit you only cowardly fades in the sea of people.

bullied victim crying tears

As you look around for your attacker, everyone in the crowd is eyeing you with a mixture of hostility, hilarity, and contempt. And you know what they’re thinking just by the way their eyes seem to shoot firey bullets at you.

They all look at you as if to say,
“Ha! Yeah! We know who hit you! Like we’ll ever tell you!” or
“So? Whadaya gonna do? Accuse all of us? Right! Like you’d have even a chance of making it home in one piece if you did!”

Maybe someone steals from you or keys your car. Again, you don’t know who to suspect because there are so many people out to hurt you. There’s no way you can pinpoint a specific person.

Understand that this is what it’s like once the bullying reaches a certain point. It’s as if the bullying has now taken on a life of its own. Because the idea of tormenting you seems to be so ingrained in everyone around you- bullies, bystanders, even authority figures- that they can no longer help themselves.

Anytime things have reached such a fever pitch, they’re signs that you’re in grave danger! In a situation like this, the bullying has escalated to a hazardous level, and it likely won’t get better but only worse. Your only recourse is to leave the environment and make a new start somewhere else.

Leave now while you still have your health- and maybe your life! Because if the bullies or their minions don’t kill you first, the stress of it will!