Can teasing be good?

Is teasing part of what makes us human?

Humans communicate based on a blend of shared experiences and influences, cultural norms, stereotypical expectations, vocal nuance and subtle cues both physical and facial.

Impressively, with that complex mix of signals, our brains are able to interpret meanings and respond at a baffling speed. 

The neuro-typical brain is able to read room, understand feelings and emotional states of others, and know what a partner or friend is thinking. 

Teasing isn’t simple

Teasing is a complex way of communicating. But the idea of teasing, or even the word itself, has gained a bad reputation because it is often associated with bullying. But teasing is not necessarily bullying behavior. Rather, in many instances, it can be a playful way that humans can grow closer, establish relationships, forge memories, and test boundaries. 

What experts say

A well known article, Why Affectionate Teasing is Kind and Necessary, offers this: “When we enjoy being warmly teased, it’s because the teasing remark emerges from a genuine insight into who we are. The teaser has studied us and put their finger on a struggle that’s going on in us.” In other words, a teaser who means nothing malicious by their actions, has taken note of a characteristic and uses it to make an observation which can sometimes be helpful to the recipient. 

Playful teasing can be pleasant because it shows a genuine interest in our traits that others don’t normally see.  A teaser is recognizing that the image we project to the world may have deep nuances not normally seen by others. Our primary front never tells the whole story. A teaser is usually a close friend who is playfully pointing out that there’s more to our personality than what’s just shown on the surface. 

To be teased in a helpful and constructive way can mean that someone is paying more than cursory attention to you. The teaser’s words may point out a trait that you may be hiding, embarrassed by, or perhaps not even aware of. 

Comedians base their careers on telling uncomfortable truths and we enjoy their wit and sarcasm. Close friends often use teasing as a way of offering constructive feedback and helpful observations –even when they’re not asked. A tease or joke can sting, but it can also help reveal truths about who you are and ideally draw you closer to the teaser. 

There are numerous benefits of teasing.

Resilience – learning to respond in a positive manner to teasing helps to eliminate the possibility of becoming a target of bullying. 

Boundaries – Teasing lets you create healthy boundaries between yourself and friends and family. Going too far establishes boundaries and draws lines that you don’t want to cross so as to not harm your relationships. 

Acceptance– Often a person who gently teases puts on a playful mask in order to work through tough social situations or awkward moments.

Expanding a circle of friends -Sometimes teasing is a way to flirt and build new friendships.

Lighten a mood– Often, teasing can lighten a mood or ease criticism and helps tough subjects be discussed.

Deepen relationships – Gentle teasing can create a bridge between strangers and help find a common bond. This happens often when people talk about their favorite athletic teams and give each other ‘nonsense’ or talk ‘smack.’ With friends, teasing can deepen an existing relationship and build trust in new ones.

Healthy teasing can lead to many social benefits between friends and acquaintances but the all-important underling factor that must be considered is intent. If the teaser intends on hurting or trying to establish a higher position of authority or power over another, then the teasing can be unproductive and lead to more severe forms of bullying. Our current culture and the way teasing is dealt with ignores the underlying nuances and intents. Zero tolerance policies in schools and corporations is slowly pushing beneficial teasing out of our daily interactions and can result in overcorrecting well-intended behaviors.  

What should schools do?

Should schools work to completely eliminate teasing because the line between playful jokes and hurtful bullying is a fine one? If educators work to reject all forms of teasing, we could be losing a vital part of our identity and a way we build connections with others. 

Learn more

Anti-bully shows in elementary schools typically address the topic of teasing and how it can become the first part of establishing an imbalance in social power leading to more sever instances of bullying. Our Mystery of the Character Surprise assembly show focuses on how students can use positive character traits to help others get what they want and keep their schools bully-free. Please follow the link above to learn more. 

Comments: (Can teasing be good?)

This article is right on…except that it’s more about adults. Adults can understand the nuance of teasing. Kids don’t. Of course, how is anyone going to know the nuance unless they go through the awkward phase of getting it wrong.

With kids, we always teach black and white. They don’t get grey. We say never lie. So grandma comes over and they say she is fat. Which is true. But not appropriate. 

But if you were to teach kids, ‘well tell the truth most of the time, but then again not other times, and sometimes you can keep things to yourself, but other times you have to share…maybe’ 

I am mostly sure that in a 45-minute school presentation, it is important to be black and white. Teachers and parents can sort out the grey when there is more time and they know the kids better.


This blog article makes some valid points but, man, is that going to be hard to look at on a case by case basis. When I do an anti-bully show, I’m reminded by administrators that bullying is repeated behavior with malicious intent.


I think the friendship/relationship comes first. I will put up with/enjoy teasing from friends and family that I already know love me, but not from someone who has not earned that right through relationship.


I agree with the Article that teasing from a friend helps bring one closer and may help the one being teased confront an issue. Teasing a guy that he’s “inhaled” another donut may brig the guy to consider that he needs to consider healthier options some of the time. It really depends on how the teasing is delivered and the intent behind it. Teasing amongst a group of friends can help one to feel that they are part of the group, and deserve the attention to be teased in the first place. In the 1960’s it used to be called “giving him the business”. Really should be part of a relationship, and gets away from everyone having to be so politically correct.


Well… this is fine if the person being teased knows the person, i.e. you’re not a stranger. And your vocal inflections and body language play a big part when you tease.


I agree. I also think there’s a difference in playful /comedic teasing between friends & loved ones vs teasing classmates out of rudeness or making fun of someone. 

I am a very sarcastic, playful type of person. I “tease” with my husband, kids & siblings very often – but not the type of teasing that points out their flaws or makes fun of them. More of just a “sense of humor” kind of thing. My dad & brother & sister all do the same thing… but it’s more pulling pranks on each other or just being silly with them. 

“Teasing” other classmates for their weight, height, freckles, brand of shoes, grades, race, religion, financial status, type of phone they have etc is totally different.


Teasing from a good friend is one thing.

If it’s done in front of others, and they are joining in and laughing, it becomes another. But when from a stranger — not good at all.