“My colleagues try to dominate me and make fun of me. And if I try to answer them, they just laugh at me. I don’t know how to reply.”
“I have 3 roommates, and I’m the butt of every damn joke. They’re all witty, and I can’t seem to think of anything quickly. When they make fun of me, I can’t think of a rebuttal. They make inside jokes and jokes that are only directed at me. They come up with new things every day.”
If you can relate to these quotes from our readers, this guide is for you. There’s a difference between two friends joking and someone making fun of you or trying to dominate you. If you’re looking to get more respect in general, you should read our guide with several tricks that make people respect you.
In this article, you’ll learn how to deal with someone who makes fun of you.
- What to do when someone makes fun of you
- Reasons why some people make fun of others
- Common questions
When someone puts you down or makes you the butt of a joke, it’s normal to freeze up. Your mind might go blank, or it may seem like everything you say or do in response to the bully only makes the situation worse. Fortunately, there are several simple strategies you can use to shut down teasing and harassment.
Here’s how to deal with someone who makes fun of you:
1. Don’t give a predictable reply
If you respond to the bully in a predictable way, you are implying that they have said something funny, even though they haven’t. When you rise to the bully’s bait, they will feel encouraged to keep on having fun at your expense.
Here’s an example showing why a predictable reply can validate a bully’s comments and make the situation worse:
Bully: “So what movies do you like, you know, except for dirty movies? Hahahaha.”
You: “Haha, yeah right!” or “Shut up!” or “Haha, no I don’t!”
Bully: “I knew it! HAHAHA.”
Everyone around you will probably laugh along too, not necessarily because they don’t care about your feelings, but because they just don’t realize how bad you feel. And since the “funny one” got the response they were looking for, they’re more likely to do it again in the future.
2. Agree too much with the joke
This technique is effective and easy to use for beginners just starting to find their voice against the “funny guy/girl.”
Here’s the trick: While keeping a poker face, agree too much with their stupid question or statement. Don’t laugh or smile. Just give them your answer with a straight face.
The reason this works is that your response will be the opposite of what they expect. They will either be at a loss for words or they will look like a complete idiot if they try to push the joke further.
When you respond this way, everyone will see your disapproval and will realize that what the “funny one” said wasn’t funny at all. The situation will end awkwardly for the bully because they will be laughing alone.
Here’s an example of how you get the upper hand on the funny guy/girl by agreeing too much:
Funny one: “So what movies do you like? You know, except for dirty movies? Hahahaha.”
You: “Oh, you didn’t know? I only watch dirty movies.”
Funny one: “… well then.”
When the bully has backed off, change the subject and continue talking as if nothing happened.
If possible, keep ignoring the funny one and any further attempts they make at the same kind of joke. Being non-reactive while you “agree” makes your disapproval crystal clear to everyone. You’re basically treating them like your irritating little brother. This shows that you do not tolerate bad behavior like that and gives you the upper hand.
3. Ignore the bully
Sometimes, ignoring the bully is the best solution. It can work well if you aren’t a quick thinker or aren’t sure what to say when they make fun of you.
When you don’t respond to a bully, you take away their sense of gratification. That takes them out of the conversation and leaves them with no control over the situation.
So how do you actually ignore the bully?
- Don’t react at all. Pretend that you never heard their comment. At first, this might be difficult to get right. Most people fail when trying to ignore someone because their body language shows that they are annoyed. But it may get easier with practice.
- Continue the conversation as though the bully never spoke at all. This makes it clear to both the bully and the other people you’re talking to that you don’t accept, and won’t tolerate, their behavior. This is an important step because if you fall silent, it’s not clear whether you disapprove or just don’t know how to reply.
- If you blank out or don’t know how to reply, it’s better to use the previous technique of “agreeing TOO MUCH” with the bully.
To see how well this technique works, imagine this conversation between two friends, Cary and John, plus a bully:
Cary: “Who’s joining me at the beach tomorrow? It’s supposed to be a gorgeous sunny day.”
Bully: “Definitely not John—he’s too pale to be allowed to take his shirt off. He’ll blind you if you don’t have your sunglasses on!”
If you were John, you could respond like this:
“Going to the beach sounds lovely. I’m free after 12 if that works for you?”
Do you see how John’s response makes the bully seem rude? This example also shows that you don’t have to sink to a bully’s level by being rude or mean.
When you ignore the bully, they might try harder to fit into the group. So instead of making insulting jokes, they’re more likely to follow the vibe of the conversation.
If you ignore a bully’s comments for long enough, they may start playing nice to fit back in. In some cases, they might resign from the group altogether. Either way, if you can effectively ignore their comments for a long period of time, they might stop.
4. Ask the bully to clarify what they mean
Sometimes you want a good comeback to make someone shut up when they make fun of you. This can be quite tricky when you blank out or only come up with a reply when it’s all over. (Read more abouthow to never be nervous around people.)
Here’s a comeback you can use in almost any situation:
Interesting that you’d say that. How do you mean?
This one is good if you want to confront someone about what they said. It takes all the fun out of it for them when they have to explain themselves. And just like the method of “Agreeing too much,” it doesn’t give them the response they expected.
5. Memorize and use comeback phrases and quotes
If you want to be a bit wittier and are prepared to be slightly mean, you could try using some comebacks. Here are a few ideas:
- Remember when I said you’re smart? I lied.
- If I wanted to kill myself, I’d climb your ego and jump to your IQ.
- You should eat some makeup. That way, you’ll at least be pretty on the inside.
- Acting like a dick won’t make yours any bigger.
- It’s amazing how stupid people can be. Thank you for the demonstration.
- You’re about as useful as a raincoat in a desert.
- Your ass must be jealous of the shit coming from your mouth.
- Do you ever think about how your life would be if you grew up in a better family?
- You’ve got all your life left to be a douchebag. Why not take the day off?
- I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings when I called you dumb. I thought you knew.
- You know what? You always make me so happy…when you leave.
- Too bad you can’t use makeup on your personality.
Use these phrases with caution. In certain situations, they might backfire. For example, if you’re dealing with someone who is highly confrontational, a comeback might make them very angry. When you use them, it’s important that you do it in a joking manner—you don’t want to risk starting a fight.
6. Draw attention to their bullying tendencies
If you’re dealing with someone who often makes fun of you or puts you down, you can deal with their comments by acting as though their behavior is just an immature, embarrassing habit rather than something you should take personally.
This spoils the bully’s fun because although you’re acknowledging their behavior, you aren’t letting it get to you. It’s an unexpected response that may leave them confused.
You can do this by smiling, chuckling, or rolling your eyes and saying something like, “Ah, classic [Name],” or “Oh right, there he/she goes again!” The trick is to act as though they are merely a nuisance rather than a threat.
Here’s an example showing this approach in action. Imagine that you’re telling some friends about a second-hand car you bought recently. One member of the group, James, often puts you (and others) down. He knows you earn a low salary and sometimes takes shots at your job and income.
You: I’m finally picking my car up on Thursday. I can’t wait! It’s not brand new, but I got a good deal. It’s hard to get around this area on public transport.
James: Amazing, I’ve never seen someone get so excited about a second-hand car. But I guess you have to get excited about simple things if you earn peanuts.
You: Haha, classic James!
You: You know, putting people down? [Laughs] It’s your thing.
James: It’s not! I’m only saying that it’s kind of pathetic to get so excited about a cheap car.
You: See! [Smiles, rolls eyes] Typical James! Anyway… [Changes topic]
This technique puts the bully’s character under the spotlight and diverts attention away from you. Don’t engage with their comments or get drawn into an argument—that’s what they want you to do. Just label their behavior, dismiss it, and move on.
7. Learn how to be more assertive
Research suggests that being more assertive might protect you from harassment. According to a 2020 study into workplace bullying published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice, people low in assertiveness may be more at risk of bullying.
This may be because assertive people stand up for their rights and defend their personal boundaries, which might make it easier for them to shut down teasing and other disrespectful behavior quickly.
If you feel that you’re too submissive, you might want to read about steps you can take to be more assertive.
8. Work out whether you’re dealing with a toxic person
It’s important to know the difference between a real friend who has made a mistake and atoxic friend who doesn’t truly care about your feelings. A real friend is always worth a second shot, but you need to cut toxic friends out of your life.
However, try to remember that nobody’s perfect. For example, most of us make ill-judged comments or zone out of a conversation from time to time. Don’t be too quick to assume that someone is toxic just because they’ve been rude a couple of times. You want to look out for patterns of behavior before jumping to conclusions.
Here are some signs that your friend may be a toxic person:
- They do things without your permission and may disrespect your boundaries. For example, they might borrow your possessions without asking first.
- They try to make you feel guilty or use emotional blackmail to get what they want. For instance, they might say things like, “If you really cared about me, you’d lend me $50 for gas” or “If you were a real friend, you wouldn’t mind babysitting for me,” even if they know that you don’t want to lend them money or take care of their children.
- They are nice one-on-one, but they try to boss you around when you’re in a group. Real friends treat you with respect, regardless of who is around.
- They don’t pay much or any attention to you during conversations; they might use you as a sounding board or therapist.
- They don’t apologize when they hurt you or let you down, even when you let them know how you feel.
- When they tease you, they focus on the things that they know make you insecure. For example, if your friend knows that you are self-conscious about your weight, it would be toxic and unkind of them to make jokes about your size or shape.
9. Ask the other person to change their behavior
Here’s amore diplomatic route you can take if you value a relationship. Keep in mind that this sentence works in any type of relationship where you are both motivated to get along.
It’s your responsibility to tell the bully how you feel if you want them to stop. They are at fault, but since they’re usually not aware of how their behavior affects you, you need to make them aware of it.
Here are some tips that will help you make yourself clear:
- Don’t generalize. Don’t say something like “You always try to dominate me.” Generalizations make other people defensive, and they aren’t particularly helpful because they don’t spell out exactly why you are hurt. Give a specific example instead.
- Tell the person how YOU feel, not what THEY should and shouldn’t do. This is achieved by using I-statements. No one can disprove that you feel a certain way, but they can argue back when you tell them how they should behave.
- Give them the benefit of the doubt and make it clear you don’t want to attack your friend and just want to fix the problem. For example, you could say, “You probably didn’t mean to hurt me.”
Here’s an example:
“Sometimes you say things that I don’t like. One example is when you joked about my new sweater. I feel belittled when you make comments like that. You probably didn’t intend to come across as mean, but I want you to know how that made me feel.”
It takes courage to open up to someone who’s causing you harm, but standing up for yourself will be worth it in the long run.
10. Tell someone that you’re being bullied
Opening up about your experiences can make you feel better, which will give you a mental edge the next time someone tries to put you down. Talk to a friend or relative about what’s going on. They might have similar experiences to share.
You could also try talking to a therapist who can help you come up with good strategies on how to deal with bullies both practically and emotionally.
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If you’ve been on the receiving end of bullying, harassment, or malicious teasing, you might have asked yourself what drives people to behave so badly.
It’s hard to know for sure why someone makes fun of others, but psychologists have made some progress in uncovering the root causes of bullying.
Here are some of the reasons why some people humiliate or bully others:
1. Low self-esteem
Some people may try to feel better about themselves by making fun of others.
A meta-analysis published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behaviour found a modest link between bullying behavior and low self-esteem.
According to an article by Harvey published in the Journal of Business Ethics, biological differences, such as genetics, may help explain why some people are prone to bullying behavior.
In 2019, Veldkamp et al. ran a study with identical and non-identical pairs of school-aged twins. Their goal was to work out if a person’s genes or environment make them more or less likely to be a bully. The researchers found that genetic influences can make children more vulnerable to becoming a bully or a victim.
3. A lack of empathy
A 2015 review published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behaviour states that there is a negative association between the ability to feel empathy and bullying behavior. People who find it hard to imagine what those around them are thinking and feeling are more likely to make fun of others. This may be because they don’t fully understand how their actions affect their victims.
4. A need for control
Some people may bully because they want to control their environment. For example, an employee might bully others in the workplace because they want to control who works on their team, who works particular shifts, and how the work is done. By intimidating and making fun of their coworkers, an employee may be able to have things their way.
5. Desire to increase their status
Some people try to become more popular by bullying others. The results of a 2020 study published in the American Journal of Sociology showed that bullies often try to establish dominance by picking on people in their social circle, including people they would describe as friends. For example, a bully might try to make themselves look smarter or funnier than someone else by repeatedly putting them down.
6. Learned behavior
Bullying can be learned behavior that people pick up from their environment. For example, an employee who sees a coworker go unpunished for making fun of others might be more likely to follow suit than an employee who works in a place with a zero-tolerance bullying policy.
7. Personality disorders
There is a positive association between personality disorders and bullying behavior. Vaughn et al. analyzed the results of a large-scale survey involving 43,093 adults and discovered that histrionic, paranoid, and antisocial personality disorders were increased risk factors for bullying.
8. Adult Bullying Syndrome
Psychologist Chris Piotrowski has coined the term Adult Bully Syndrome (ABS) to describe the behaviors and tendencies of people who often bully others.
In a 2015 paper, Piotrowski explains that people with ABS show a set of distinctive traits; they are controlling, callous, self-centered, manipulative, and Machiavellian. These traits are often seen in people with personality disorders.
How can I deal with a coworker who makes fun of me?
There is no universal solution for dealing with a workplace bully. In some cases, ignoring them may work. If the problem persists, you could try spelling out why you feel hurt and ask them to stop. You could also try asking a member of senior management or your team leader for advice.
What should I do if someone makes fun of me online?
In many cases, ignoring is the simplest way to deal with an online bully. Remember, you don’t have to respond to unkind remarks. On social media, consider blocking or muting the person who is making fun of you. If they repeatedly harass you or make you feel unsafe, report them to the platform.
- Fang, L., Hsiao, L., Fang, S. and Chen, B.C. (2020). Effects of assertiveness and psychosocial work conditions on workplace bullying among nurses: A cross‐sectional study. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 26(6). https://doi.org/10.1111/ijn.12806.
- Tsaousis, I. (2016). The relationship of self-esteem to bullying perpetration and peer victimization among schoolchildren and adolescents: A meta-analytic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 31, 186–199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2016.09.005
- Harvey, M., Treadway, D., Heames, J. T., & Duke, A. (2008). Bullying in the 21st-century global organization: An ethical perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(1), 27–40.https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-008-9746-8
- Veldkamp, S. A. M., Boomsma, D. I., de Zeeuw, E. L., van Beijsterveldt, C. E. M., Bartels, M., Dolan, C. V., & van Bergen, E. (2019). Genetic and environmental influences on different forms of bullying perpetration, bullying victimization, and their co-occurrence. Behavior Genetics, 49(5), 432–443. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10519-019-09968-5
- Mitsopoulou, E., & Giovazolias, T. (2015). Personality traits, empathy and bullying behavior: A meta-analytic approach. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 21, 61–72.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2015.01.007
- Apt, C. (2016). Nurses as bullies and victims of bullies. Psychology and Education, 53(1-2), 50–55.
- Faris, R., Felmlee, D., & McMillan, C. (2020). With friends like these: Aggression from amity and equivalence. American Journal of Sociology, 126(3), 673–713. https://doi.org/10.1086/712972
- Vaughn, M. G., Fu, Q., Bender, K., DeLisi, M., Beaver, K. M., Perron, B. E., & Howard, M. O. (2010). Psychiatric correlates of bullying in the United States: Findings from a national sample. Psychiatric Quarterly, 81(3), 183–195. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11126-010-9128-0
- Piotrowski, C. (2015). Adult Bully Syndrome: A bibliometric analysis on concordance with personality disorder traits. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 42(1), 1-3.