How To Tell If You’re The Bully?

Being a Kiwi bird in the city, I enjoy watching and learning from all the different humans around me. I see kids walking home from school together and adults grabbing drinks at the local pub with their co-workers. Something that has confused me is the number of humans that seem to act mean or bully their friends and peers. Sometimes it’s clearly for laughs and is setup in a way that’s lighthearted and not meant to be taken seriously. Other times however, it’s clear the person being bullied is having trouble brushing it off and the bully doesn’t even know! So what if you are the bully? No one wants to be a bully, so how do you go about making things better for everyone? Let’s discuss!

Everyone’s been the Bully and the Victim

I think I got this meme thing down

Think back to the last time you were in a group and someone made fun of you. Maybe they called out a flaw of yours to make the others in the group laugh. Plenty of times you probably just shrugged it off, but what about that one time they kept going, the constant teasing started to get frustrating whether you decided to show it or not. 

Now think back to a time you were hanging out with your friends and one of them we’ll call him Tucker accidentally tripped and fell. You all laugh and start calling him Trippy Tucker which eventually shortens to “Trip” his new nickname. Trip seems cool with it, it’s just a nickname and he was laughing too when he fell. It becomes an ongoing joke between you and your friends. You ask trip if he wants to hold your hand when you guys walk over a curb. 

You see both of these two experiences seem totally normal they happen to everyone. But what most people don’t realize is that they are the exact same situation. You see Trip didn’t care he got a nickname for tripping, but there was also one or multiple times where some constant teasing got to him and all it did was make him not want to be around you as often, because you became a bully without even meaning to.

I’m not trying to be a Bully but I still want to have fun and joke around!

I observed bullying all the time. It didn’t matter the age, gender, or color of skin. However sometimes I observed similar behavior/comradery but it felt much less hostile for the person who was the center of attention. It seemed some people had mastered a fine line between being a bully and being a joking friend. If you want to keep having fun but don’t want to put down others, follow some of these steps that worked for others.

Tip 1: Backing up a Joke with a Compliment

Orange ball in net

The times where people most feel upset by teasing or bullying is when there’s no break. In Trip’s case you might say something like “Hey man watch your step there it’s prettttyyy steep (Cue group laughter)” but if you followed it up with “Yea but you sure weren’t tripping in our game today, straight draining baskets! (Cue dabbing)”. You see if someone really is your friend then you shouldn’t have trouble sneaking positive vibes in between you’re jokes to keep things light hearted.

Tip 2: Be ready to make fun of yourself when you tease someone else

Man I wish I had hands to fist bump with

Sometimes the jokes are out of your control, you might be in a larger group and you see the teasing is starting to pile up. In Trip’s case, maybe you point out your own flaw like “Ya but man when I trip I end up crying like a baby, Trips freaking tough (Cue friends echo yea dude your tough as nails)”. Making jokes comes with a responsibility, that when the joking starts to take a toll, you’ll step in to be a punching bag for a bit. Being able to make fun of yourself also helps to build your own tolerance for others teasing you.

Tip 3: Check in with your friend, make sure they’re still having fun

Friends are the best

It might seem silly at first to make sure you’re not hurting a friend but talking to them one on one could be the difference between you staying friends, and them trying not to hang out with you anymore. Even something like “Hey Trip, you just knock me on the shoulder if the group starts ticking you off, I gotchu”. You see part of being a friend means even in a group of “friends” you can still be there for them and hopefully if you were in a similar situation your friends would be there for you too.


As humans grow I see them refine their joking habits which usually walks the line perfectly between teasing and bullying. For those still learning or those that never perfected the art of joking around with friends, try implementing the few steps I provided here and see if you can start to tell a difference in people’s mood. The whole point is to have fun with friends and that doesn’t only have to happen at other people’s expense. 

Keep enjoying life and leaving fries by the bench.

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