We all tease one another, although it’s a strange mix of affection and criticism if you think about it. And all too easily misunderstood!
So, nowadays we have a tendency to focus on its dark side. Like the possibility of abuse, victimisation or harassment.
But poking fun is still an important social tool. Skilful teasing helps define a group’s social standards and encourages everyone to stick to them.
It helps bring people closer together, and has always been an important part of a good relationship.
The whole point of teasing is to mix signals into your flak that say that it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Like kindly laughter, a special tone of voice, a funny look, or skilful sarcasm.
Tread a fine line between criticism and enjoyment so that your target knows that you still like them despite their flaws — and maybe even more because of them.
But teasing is always ambiguous; so it can sometimes be hard to figure out. And whether it works the way it was intended depends on who’s teasing who.
So, if someone more senior teases you at work, then the power play involved is always worrying.
Or when someone cold or unfriendly mocks you, it creates more anxiety than amusement.
You’re not sure what the comment is all about, so the game loses its balance and becomes uncomfortable for everyone.
But when friends, lovers, or parents and children tease one another, they invariably wind up liking each other more.
And the happier a couple is with their relationship, the more playful their teasing becomes. There’s plenty of coy smiles, special faces, secret phrases, unusual voices and lots of affectionate touching.
Poking fun makes couples feel more positive about one another.
In a way, teasing is very like flirting. So, it allows you to test the limits of a developing relationship while still leaving yourself an escape route: “I was only teasing!”
But you should always be careful because men and women see teasing differently.
Women for example, tend to focus on personal habits and sexual issues, such as which of them wants more, while men more often focus on their partner’s physical characteristics.
Women are more likely to feel that teasing is hurtful, while men tend to find it arousing.
Mostly, that’s because men see all social situations in more sexual terms than women.
But it’s also because they tend to interpret the familiarity implied by teasing as a sign of sexual interest, while women don’t!
And maybe men are just more used to being teased, because they get more of it throughout their lives.
Women, on the other hand, tend to have a stronger emotional reaction to anything that might be potentially hostile.
But despite its potential downsides, poking fun is important in every relationship.
It develops a real sense of closeness, and its ambiguity adds humour and warmth into otherwise tricky issues.
So, learn to tease your partner well, and it will help you become more emotionally and physically intimate.