As friends you often throw (what you believe to be) harmless insults at each other, nothing meant to hurt each other's feelings just something to get a laugh out of each other. Typically when my friends joke around and insult each other I just laugh, and laugh too when they do it to me.

However on rare occasions they will often make a joke or insult that actually offends me and hurts, I usually laugh it off in these situations, but is this the right thing to do? I don't want to try and tell them to stop completely as there's no trend into what does and doesn't genuinely offend me, and I would feel a if I was being unfair if I just asked them to stop all together (besides I enjoy it usually). So what's the best way to react to a joke about you that genuinely offended/hurt you unintentionally.

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    Reacting to joke that you didn't find funny and reacting to a joke (insult) that genuinely offended you are two different things. Choose one for this question please. I'd suggest the later, though. – Vylix Jul 8 '17 at 22:02
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    I'd also consider what insults you are making and whether they are equivalent in scope if not offensiveness. A good example would be racist epithets. If you are a black person and call your white friend a cracker, they might think it's okay to call you a n****r, even if you do not and they are cool with being called the former. While there is some argument that one is more offensive than the other, personally I stand by "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen". Don't make freindly insults you can't take yourself. – Crazymoomin Sep 15 '17 at 18:15

I certainly "traded barbs" with my friends when I was younger and my brothers and I still take jabs at each other.

Of course there are times when things go too far and the recommended way to deal with it will largely depend on how your circle​ responds when told they've overstepped.

My circle of friends was particularly harsh, and anything that really got to someone was carefully remembered, catalogue​d, and hammered upon at every opportunity till you became more or less desensitized to the topic. So... If your friends are like that, don't let on that it bothers you. Roll with it and redirect with a more humorous jab.

If your circle of friends is a little more reasonable, it may be worth trying to mention that it was a low blow in a humorous way:

Whoa... That was too far, almost as far as insert retaliatory comment here

Or if they're actually reasonable:

Not cool, don't talk about specific sensitive thing,
Then insert next retaliatory comment

In any case, moving back to bouncing jokes/insults directly sends the signal that it was just the particular comment that was offensive, not the activity as a whole.


Going with the comment by Vylix and addressing the "offended" question, I support the answer by apaul34208 and add in some thoughts.

Since you stated there's no trend into what does and doesn't genuinely offend me, it seems that you can learn more about yourself from these encounters.

You can tell yourself something at that time to remember the comment, and your feeling, in the moment, so you can think about it later. When you have the time to think about it, ask yourself:

  • What was said that I was offended by?
  • Did they mean it as offensive, or was it part of the joking?
  • Would other people I know find that offensive?
  • Would I always find that offensive?
  • Do I want to always be offended by that?
  • Why did that offend me?
  • How did I really feel when that was said?
  • What in my system of values made that offensive to me?
  • Is that something I want to have in my system of values?

Use your own answers to these questions to learn more about yourself, and what you value in life. You can also see if there is something about yourself that you want to change to grow into an even better person.

Later, in future encounters, if that still offends you, and you have decided that being offended by it is appropriate, and you want to say something about it, it can help how you say it. Being "offended" is a cover emotion for some other feeling, such as feeling disrespected, or threatened. Having answered the above questions, you now know how you feel about that comment and can say something like:

I feel ____ when you say _____.

That is better than saying you are offended, which can be hard to translate for them, and it's owning your feelings, telling them why you feel that way without blaming them for your feelings. Since they aren't being "blamed" for your feelings, they are more likely to respect your feelings, and try to modify their comments.

  • I really find would I always find that offensive and do I want to always be offended by that very helpful in determining whether is it appropriate for you to be offended. Many people got easily offended, and by things common people find bizarre to be offended with. – Vylix Jul 11 '17 at 13:10
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    +1, and I'd recommend When you say _____, it makes me feel _____ because ______ instead. Explaining feelings to someone else usually works best with long, well-explained sentences, in my experience. – Ramon Melo Jul 13 '17 at 21:24

Been there, done that.

I handled it by rolling with the punches in public, and then talking one on one to the guy who had crossed the line, asking him "not to go there again", because I found it seriously insulting and it made me very uncomfortable.

If the offender is a friend and reasonably serious, this should work for you.

But you must know who you're dealing with. Some people are nasty and cruel, and if you let them know something gets under your skin, they'll double down on it, just because they can.

  • And if "they'll double down on it", then they aren't really friends, right? – Tycho's Nose Dec 23 '17 at 13:46

The one tried and true method for talking trash with your buddies is to OWN THE INSULTS THROWN AT YOU. It sounds strange, but if you own the insult they threw at you, even elaborate on it and make it your own joke, nobody can hurt you. They will eventually have to abandon the joke all together.

For example:

Friend A sends a picture of him eating a banana at a cafe with some friends in our group chat. Friend B cracks a joke about the banana and a sexual act. Friend A agrees, but says he wishes the banana was a bit bigger. Everyone laughs and moves on.

Now if friend A got defensive that would be game over. "No way guys, I don't like bananas like that!" That's the time everyone else in the group chat would jump on him for the killing blows.

If you genuinely think your friends are trying to hurt you, they probably aren't your friends. Otherwise, roll with the punches!

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