We’ve all known that nosy kid in school who loved to tease and taunt us for having a broken shoe, or funny hair, or being on the heavier side. Yes, we all hated him. Many of us have also know adults who taunt out of habit, maybe not because they mean harm, but because taunting is a part of their behavior now. If you are one of them, this post is especially for you!

Two days back I was at a friend’s son’s Birthday party.  She stays with her in-laws and her parents were going to come to the event as well. Both sets of parents are generally very kind-hearted and good-natured people. But occasionally there comes an awkward statement or two.

So this Friend’s parents arrived, and the moment they came, they sought to meet with my Friend’s In-laws, who greeted them warmly and asked after their health. All was hunky-dory up until the moment the MIL said to my Friend’s Mother,

‘Isn’t this the same sari you wore to our Gudi Padhwa function? I thought today you’ll wear something different…’

Okay, so awkward moment right there. Everyone ignored it. The poor Mother said something like it’s my favorite and changed tactics by complimenting the MIL’s sari.

But throughout the evening, the MIL was heard taunting someone or the other –

What a beautiful neck-piece! (Thanks from the Mother and a beatific smile spread on her face) But how clever of you not to gift this to X (my Friend)? Keeping all the good stuff to yourself, eh? (She jokingly patted her Samdhan’s arm)

The rest of the evening my Friend’s Mother wore a sombre look, and later I heard the MIL ask my Friend what had happened to her mother. Really?

Oh, you guys are eating this (my Friend was eating a plate of pani-puri with me)? You shouldn’t! Look how heavy you two are. When I was your age, my waist was still as slim as ever, even after two kids.

My poor friend immediately stopped eating and I felt guilty hogging it all by myself.

O Pradita, you’re a sweetheart. Thank you for gifting him (my Friend’s Son) these books, even though….he has so many already (made faces while she turned away from me but I still saw it, at which point I told my Friend that I had no intention of being anywhere near her MIL for the rest of the evening).

After having caused so much drama, I was told by my friend later (I had already left the party by then) that as her parents were leaving, the MIL was overheard apologizing profusely to my Friend’s Mother for her bad behavior. Thank God, good sense prevailed!

So as you can see, in some cases, the MIL didn’t really mean to hurt her audience. She was just making observations and airing her thoughts. In one case at least, I think she meant us good by asking us not to binge. She even apologized later for her conduct. So the realization was there that she had done wrong, but she wasn’t able to control the temptation to taunt.

Such people are the kind who are always tempted to make a comment or other gesture to tease or upset those around them, even if they mean it only as a joke, or as a harmless thing. They do this because it’s become a part of their nature. It helps them exert their power or influence over others, or because they have an inherent insecurity that they want to hide by deflecting attention to someone else’s flaws. Their urge to make a point or have themselves heard is strong, and they give in to it each time, only to look like fools, and maybe even apologize later.

You may not be one of them, or you may be doing it unknowingly, without meaning any harm to anyone, but as tempting as it sounds, as fun as it may look, do not give in to the temptation of teasing people habitually! An occasional banter is alright between friends and family, but know your limits. 

Why am ‘I’ saying this to you? What right do ‘I’ have to preach on this topic?

Because I’ve done it in the past.

Throughout college I was known as a motor-mouth, who would taunt, tease and humiliate others just for the fun of it. I wasn’t always like this though. And to be sure I’ve been bullied a lot too. But in college I decided to be a bully!

Much later I realized that I did this to hide my own insecurities, because I felt alone, the odd man out or just clumsy sometimes, but that wasn’t any excuse for the way I behaved. Of course, it came at a huge cost. I was rewarded by a loss of friends and trust. It hurt to see so many of my friends walk away from me because I made an unchecked remark on their attire, their behavior or their choices. Things that I could have easily avoided… but didn’t!

So what should you do when the temptation to taunt strikes? Here are some pointers for you –

  1. Resist – That’s the only, sure-shot way to overcome this temptation. With other kinds of temptations maybe you can avoid the source of temptation, but with this you cannot because the source is mostly within your social circle. You can’t avoid that!
  2. Check your Speech and Tone – Often taunters have a peculiar way of saying things, like a ‘taunting voice’. You know when it’s bubbling over your tongue to spew forth. The moment it happens, hold your tongue, shut your mouth, and mull over the words you’re going to say. Do they sound caustic, sharp, teasing? Ask yourself how would you feel if someone said this to you. Ask yourself why you need to make that comment at all. It’ll give you a chance to calm yourself down  and besides, chances are, that by the time you’re done with this internal tête-à-tête, your urge to taunt would have evaporated. Problem solved!
  3. Ignore – So you see someone ill-dressed and you want to tell them it does not suit them at all? Who died and made you King? Unless you see someone doing themselves great harm, ignore the source, keep your comments and suggestions to yourself, and let someone else do the pointing out.
  4. Rephrase – Okay, so you have to make that comment. Rehash it in your head, and then reword it. Ensure that it sounds like a suggestion or a compliment, not as a taunt.
  5. Apologize – So you gave in and taunted someone?! Apologize… ASAP, if you don’t want to lose your friends or family. An apology will not belittle you, it’ll only show the strength of your character. Never let an unchecked comment go without repairing the harm you’ve caused. It’ll always come back and bite you in the a*%!

I hope you’re not one to taunt, but if you are, then I really hope you take these pointers and help yourself resist the temptation. Not all temptations are bad, but this one only ensures that you become an unwelcome person in your circle. So, unless you plan to be a hermit and live in social isolation, repeat this mantra whenever you’re tempted to taunt,

Thou shalt not taunt,

Thou shalt not tease.

Thou shalt not say anything,

That does not the heart please. 

Pradita Kapahi