The biggest surprise of the 2017 Emmy Awards had nothing to do with recognizing actors, directors or writers. Former White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer’s sudden appearance as Sean Spicer spoofing himself had jaws dropping. Plenty of folks were upset that Spicer was making a joke of spreading lies in his role of Trump’s Press Secretary and that the show’s producers seemed to be “normalizing” deceitful behavior.
Joking about bad behavior is a hallmark of adolescents and bullies. The “just kidding” cover is often used by those who are not courageous or mature enough to say: I was wrong and I’m sorry. Trump has used this “just kidding” cover many times: when he urged the Russians to hack Clinton’s emails, when he told law enforcement officers not to be “too nice,” when he thanked Putin for expelling US personnel from Moscow embassy, to name a few instances.
Not a Laughing Matter
Some of the most hurtful remarks made are supposedly made in jest. Poking fun at someone is a thinly veiled insult. As a corporate coach, I would sometimes hear reports of coworkers making fun of someone’s attire or appearance. Women reported jokes made about their hair; men reported about jokes made about their ties or shoes.
Because such snipes come at you when you least expect them, you have to rehearse your coping strategies and be ready. A gracious response is: You probably didn’t mean to be hurtful but that comment hurt my feelings. Even if the sniper definitely meant to be hurtful, your gracious comment lets him or her “save face” while making your point. Unless you really feel like laughing, don’t; laughing lets the sniper off the hook and reinforces his or her behavior.
Just Say NO
Another ploy of bullies is to accuse their victims of being “too sensitive,” forcing them into a defensive posture. If a bully has accused you of being overly sensitive after making an insensitive comment or joke at your expense, you may reply: That may be, but your comment really did hurt my feelings. You can recycle that simple statement as often as needed.
Since we have a Bully-in-Chief at the White House, I worry about how his modeling will play out in classrooms and boardrooms everywhere. We must be mindful of our own impulses to put others’ down when we’re scared, as well as protect our self-esteem by resisting those who attempt to use jokes at our expense.