The Difference Between Playful Banter and Bullying

Spread the love

funny joking man pointing

“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.

Bullies, on the other hand, 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 the relationship you have with the other person! If the person is not a friend or family member- anyone 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.

Funny Story

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!

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!”


“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!

0 thoughts on “The Difference Between Playful Banter and Bullying

  1. Brenda Jones says:

    This a lot of times is sibling territory I think. Siblings give each other playful banter/grief but it usually (though not always) isn’t to be taken seriously or perhaps very close friends but bullies go way behind this.

    • cheriewhite says:

      My heart goes out to you because I was there too years ago. When you’re young and this happens, you want to tell them to get a life but you just know they’ll only turn around and say something like, “can’t you take a joke?” Thankfully, once you get older, you’re more like to know how to respond to it without looking like you really “can’t take a joke.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *