I know a man whose way to exist in a group and relate to people, in general, seems to be using put-down humor, to laugh at the expense of others.
Naturally, very rarely is the joke any funny. It is, I think, the fact that people know that a comment is meant to be a joke and that there is no nefarious intent that makes people around him answer with a laugh. Maybe it is their fear to be excluded. I find indeed that his best audience is his own nuclear family, the children he raised, the woman he married.
The behavior he adopts adapts to the person he has in front of him. If she has set boundaries and made it clear that this behavior was not welcome, then he manages to avoid wanting to build rapport laughing at her expense. On the other end, if she does not set boundaries or worse goes along with it, the situation quickly worsens. Each time he receives a positive reaction to them, a laugh, or an answer on the same tone, they seem to act like positive reinforcements, and their frequency increases.
However, the man is a good person. He is generous, sensitive, and loving. The problem might be that he does not know otherwise or that he does not know how to show his affection. From what I heard about his father, it looks like using put down humor as a way to bond is something he inherited. Like father, like son.
Similarly, his children demonstrate the same tendency to use laughing at the expense of someone as a way to build rapport with that same person. How much sense does it make? I put you in the spot, saying something mean about you, engage people in laughing at you so that we can be friends?
Not only is put down humor a non-sense, but it is also something that hurts people. Repeatedly hearing negative things about you and seeing others siding with the aggressor through their laugh can damage your self-esteem and make you feel antagonized. It also hurts the perpetrator by shedding a negative light on himself and his personality.
In the end, the situation is a lose-lose. But where does the responsibility lie?
Join My List
Subscribe to my mailing list and get all my posts to your email inbox.