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Just Kidding. Or Am I?

Those who know me well will tell you I’m not an easy person to criticize. Not because I don’t have faults, but because I tend to believe everything someone else tells me and take it all to heart. I’m not even good with constructive criticism and have never really understood the game of kidding.

My children and husband suspect the reason I can’t take kidding is because I was an only child and, therefore, never experienced the normal, common, often daily ritual of kidding from brothers or sisters. I tend to agree with their take on this situation and most of my tribe also concur. But they joke that it’s because of my birth order – which, of course, is more kidding.

Another factor contributing to my kidding-averse disposition was having two very serious adults as parents; parents who may have laughed a little and fought a lot, but never told me anything that wasn’t true. Honest. Really. Ever.

My husband, Jim, on the other hand, was one of three male siblings and had a very funny mom. His brothers are still world class kidders. So, when I married into this family as a young and serious girl, it took me years to realize that everything Jim’s brothers told me may not be exactly true. I was so gullible then and, in some ways, still am today. My children can’t get over how flustered I sometimes get by the easy teasing and good-natured kidding that happens in every family.

The secret to survival in a kidding family, of course, is to remember Ben Zander’s Rule #6 as explained through the following parable:

Two managers are sitting in an office. Suddenly, the door bursts open and a man runs in, extremely upset, shouting and carrying on. The first manager says “Peter, Peter, please remember Rule #6” and Peter is immediately restored to complete calm.

A few minutes later, a young woman bursts in, hysterical with hair flying and tears streaming. Once again the first managers tells her “Maria, dear, please remember Rule #6!” And, once again, Maria immediately recovers, apologizes and goes back to her business.

The same thing happens a third time, after which the visiting manager says “I’ve seen three people come into this room in a state of uncontrollable fury and walk out completely calm. I really must know: What in the world is Rule #6?” To which the first manager replies “Rule #6 is simple. Don’t take yourself so damned seriously.”

“Oh, that’s a wonderful rule,” says the visiting manager. “What are the other rules?” And the first manager says “There aren’t any.”

As a grown woman in the real world, I try to not take myself too seriously (especially since I began meditation). But I also know I am a long, long way from perfecting adherence to Rule #6.

Perhaps that’s because I believe when someone teases or kids you, it’s usually based on some element of truth. The kidder often identifies one of your weakest points and teases you about it.

The Urban Dictionary explains the phrase “Just Kidding” in a variety of confusing and contradictory ways:

  1. You were just joking around with somebody.
  2. You were actually serious but decided what you said was actually very mean.
  3. You were actually serious but, since that person took offense to what you said, you cover it up by saying “Just kidding.”
  4. When you try to confess to something and that person is either laughing at you in disbelief or just angry, you cover it up by saying “Just kidding.”

I also believe friendly kidding in a family situation is a bit easier to handle than uncomfortable kidding by so-called friends or schoolmates.

Is there a difference between kidding and bullying? I imagine the person at the receiving end of that uncomfortable kidding would say no. Bullying is commonly thought to be more forceful and mean-spirited. But I believe kidding is Phase 1 of bullying, and when the kidder feels a person is an easy mark, the bullying begins with earnest.

But what do you think? Am I too sensitive and serious? Do we all just need to lighten or toughen up? Or are kidding and bullying the problematic epidemic some psychologists and sociologists suggest they are?

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the Comments section. Unless you’re chicken. (Just kidding).

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Lee Ann Monfredini

Lee Ann Monfredini

Lee Ann Monfredini is the founder of 360Women and a life-long advocate of women’s issues, political activism, social volunteerism, organizational accountability and personal responsibility. A graduate of the University of San Francisco with a degree in Non-Profit Management, she’s not only served on the boards and executive teams of some of the most respected health organizations in the Bay Area, but built a successful second career as one of the most respected realtors in the market. She can be reached at leeann@360women.net.

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