Ways To Playfully Respond To Teasing, Bantering Remarks

It's common for friends, family, and co-workers to banter and good-naturedly tease each other. Some people feel like they're not good at it, and worry it makes them less appealing to hang out with.

To get more specific, they may not be good at responding when someone teases them first. A buddy jokingly pokes fun at them and they don't have a good reply. They may worry they come across as boring and like they can't keep up. They may tend to get defensive. Their inability to verbally spar may cause everyone to bug them more, and they don't like feeling like the group's punching bag, even if their friends have good intentions.

Of course women banter too, but men can get particularly down on themselves if they think they're not up to par, because they're failing at a supposedly core male skill - "Guys bust each other's balls. If I can't hang in there my buddies will look down on me."

As I say about many other aspects of socializing, you don't have to be amazing at banter to get along with people. There are plenty of ways to be good company. However, if you feel like you could use some improvement in that area, and see the upside to getting better, then why not put some work into it?

This article will go over ways respond when you've already been good-naturedly teased and want to keep the dynamic going. This one goes into how to poke fun at someone first. If you've been teased in a meaner way and don't want to joke back, look at this piece.

Things that get in the way of coming up with good responses to being teased

Farther down I'll go over a bunch of different ways to reply when your friends or colleagues are busting your chops. But first, here are some broad mindsets that get in the way of responding effectively:

Having a tendency to get defensive and think people are being mean-spirited in their teasing

This is pretty common in people who were picked on a lot in the past. Whenever someone pokes fun at them their first instinct is to feel wounded and assume the other person is being a bully. They can overreact to harmless jokes by rushing to explain themselves, getting touchy, or shutting down.

If that's you, try to get into the habit of taking a moment to consider what the intent behind each comment was before you react. Of course, sometimes people do use "joking" comments to be jerks, but not always. This article should help:

Ways To Figure Out If Someone's Jokes Are Mean Or Good-Natured

Having a tendency to take things literally

For example, you're hanging out with some friends, and you grab another handful of chips. One of them jokingly says you want to eat all the food yourself. You're taken aback and start straightforwardly clarifying that you're not eating more than anyone else... before it sinks in that they were teasing you, and everyone chuckles at how you're slow on the uptake.

Again, if you tend to be too literal, try to make a point of pausing for a second whenever someone says something that seems unflattering or accusatory. Ask yourself if they may be joking or not, rather than jumping to give a logical response. You may not always catch yourself, but at least try to stop and think.

A bunch of different ways to respond to teasing remarks

There are an endless number of jokes people can make about each other, and just as many possible ways to reply. I can give some examples to get you going, but verbal sparring is really something you have to practice. Over time you'll hone your unique sense of humor.

As I always say, when you're reading the examples below try not to get caught up on whether you personally find each one hilarious, or if you could see yourself using those exact words. Focus more on the core ideas they're demonstrating.

Also, I probably don't need to say this, but imagine every line below being said in a cordial, playful tone. Obviously they'll come off badly if they're said in a testy, butthurt way.

Don't respond much at all, or just laugh along

I know you're here to learn how to be more witty, but this is always an option. If someone teases you you don't always have to come back with an entertaining line. Sometimes you won't be able to think of a good retort, or just won't feel like it.

You can quickly smile or nod to acknowledge the comment, then move on with the conversation. I don't mean to do this in the sense of making a big show of how much you're ignoring their remark, as you might if their intention was mean-spirited. Still be friendly, but don't take their comment and start a whole back and forth from it.

If their observation was really clever and hit the mark, often the best response is to just laugh along with it. There's nothing wrong with being a good sport and accepting someone zinged you. Let your buddy enjoy their moment. Remember, we're talking about good-natured banter here, not a life or death fight for social rank. You're not losing anything if your friend points out one of your funny quirks and you go "Haha, you got me there!"

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If they jokingly accuse you of something, agree with the premise and amplify it

For example:

If they sarcastically compliment you, pretend to take it at face value and give a funny, exaggerated reply

For example, your friend says your shirt looks amazing, and they're obviously teasing you about it being too loud and try-hard. You could simply say, "Oh, thanks!" in a somewhat dumb, overly-cheerful way. Here are some more over-the-top replies:

Jokingly accuse them of having an ulterior motive for teasing you

E.g., a friend jokes that you're terrible at the video game you're playing together:

Tease them back about the same topic

For example, a co-worker pokes fun at you for eating the same thing for lunch all the time:

More tips on teasing people here: Ways To Playfully Tease People

Make a humorous dismissive gesture

Poke fun at the quality of their joke

You don't want to use this type of response too much, as it's a bit of a cop out, but every so often it can work if you can't think of anything else to say:

Make an obviously bad, corny comeback

This is another cop out response as you're not crafting a reply to their specific comment, but throwing out an all-purpose line. Still, doing that every so often is okay.

Playfully admit you don't have a response

For example, a friend makes a really clever observation about one of your habits. You could say:


As I said, there are dozens of ways you could respond to any one joke. There's no way a quick article can list every possibility. Though the broad options above should give you enough to get started.