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Teasing is One of the Most Misunderstood Behaviors....

I'm a geek, in case you didn't know. For a fun-loving person, I can turn on you to complete seriousness before you know what hit you... To me, I guess, some topics are sacred, as cool and casual as I can be most of the time on almost any topic of conversation. I've pondered this "quirk" for I'm certain that there are others out there who share in this behavior similarly, no?

Recently I was teased to tears... Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a big spoofer and I like to poke fun quite frequently. I've noticed, however, on matters of grand issues to me, like values I hold quite close to my heart and dearly, there is a "rub" to teasing that can go too far. And, I've noticed, I tend to attract that type of interaction among others (especially men) and I suspect it is because I "react". I've been told by many, it is fun to "wind me up" - so to speak - because I will get riled and rant, hands flying in unspoken but clear drama. And I guess for some people, it is fun to watch the theatrics. Unfortunately it is "who I am" and I do not mean to be bigger than life, but when I am stirred on something I feel is important, that's the characterization of my response.

Anyway, I did a little research on "teasing"...the psychology of it. I found out these little interesting tid bits:

  • Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, Ph.D, declares that poking fun is in fact an indispensable social tool, vital to all healthy relationships.
  • "Teasing is a way, when done appropriately, for people to correct others' costly mistakes," says Keltner, who published his findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. "It helps bring people closer."
  • The driving force behind teasing is a yearning to maintain harmonious social relationships, ....exaggerated tone of voice, elongated vowels, unusual facial expressions, a little laugh just before or after the tease—a range of more or less subtle "paralinguistic" markers remind the teasee that they are loved despite the flaw—and maybe even more for it.
  • Whether a tease lands as intended depends in part on the relationship between the teaser and teasee. When the powerful pick on the the weaker, the power differential obscures all the play in teasing. Similarly, when cold and unfriendly people tease anyone at all, their actions generate more anxiety, pain and embarrassment than amusement. The intention of the tease is called into question, and the game loses its balance—it becomes far more fun for the teaser than teasee.
  • Still, whether teasing is done between lovers, friends, or parents and children, partners in play invariably wind up liking each other more, Keltner has found.
  • The more satisfied couples are with their relationship, the more playful their signs and signals: coy smiles, the sticking out of the tongue, laughter, bizarre facial expressions, unusual voice inflection and physical touching wrapped around the aggressive core of the tease. Both partners feel more positive emotion after poking fun, says Keltner.
  • Indeed, what is flirtation but a series of teases?
  • But men and women may respond differently to this form of play: Women tend to get hurt by the pinch, while their partners become more aroused. "Men always find ambiguous social stimuli more sexually suggestive than women do," explains Keltner. "What's more, teasing has an affiliative component, which men interpret as a sign of sexual interest." It may be that men are just more used to teasing, as they tend to tease more throughout the course of life. At the same time, women seem to have a stronger emotional reaction to potentially hostile stimuli.
  • Despite its potential for misuse, poking fun in fact oxygenates social life. As it is strategically ambiguous and based on the assumption that individuals are close enough to tease, it gives relationships breathing room—especially around potentially troublesome issues—while simultaneously deepening the intimacy of the relationship.

Information obtained from: Psychology Today Magazine, Nov/Dec 1999. Article ID: 346

Do you take offense to excessive teasing? Have you known a teaser who's almost more like a bully? Are you HIM, sitting here reading this? Whaddya think?


The Margin Wight said...

Doreen - Are we talking about the same thing? See my post:

doreenmary said...

Hi Margin,

I posted a response at your blog.



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