When Joking Isn’t Funny: How Humor is Used to Manipulate You

When Joking Isn’t Funny: How Humor is Used to Manipulate You when joking isn’t funny: how humor is used to manipulate you
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Have you ever found yourself questioning when a seemingly innocent joke felt like a punch in the face? Perhaps you’ve experienced the discomfort of being on the receiving end of a “joke” that left you feeling wounded and vulnerable. On the other hand, you might have encountered situations where your own humor inadvertently caused offense, leaving you puzzled by the reactions of others.

We all love humor and it is such a great tool for bonding, easing tension and fostering connections with others. We love exchanging jokes, banters and witty remarks in our daily interactions just to spice up our conversation. However, beneath the veneer of laughter lies a darker aspect of humor known as “harsh jokes manipulation.”

Harsh jokes manipulation is a subtle form of psychological control where someone use humor, to control, manipulate and exert their dominance over you.

Subtlety of Harsh Jokes

Harsh jokes manipulation operates as a hidden weapon, disguising its true intent behind humor. Perpetrators employ sarcastic remarks, belittling jokes, or teasing with an edge to assert control over their targets. These seemingly light-hearted quips can gradually erode a person’s self-esteem, subjecting them to veiled criticism and mockery under the guise of humor.


The manipulator thrives on creating a power dynamic where they retain control while their target feels vulnerable and uncertain about their place in the interaction. When you raise your concerns, they may be brushed off as mere jokes, and you might even face attacks for not having a “clear sense of humor.” While others laugh, you may find yourself hurting inside, grappling with the emotional toll of these seemingly innocent remarks.

Common Examples of Harsh Jokes

1. Personal Appearance: Making jokes about someone’s physical appearance, weight, or any physical imperfections can be hurtful and damaging.

“ I guess the gym membership isn’t working for you, huh? You should really try harder.”

2. Past Mistakes: Bringing up past mistakes or failures in a joking manner can be emotionally painful and embarrassing.

“Remember that time you messed up at work and got fired? You’re so unreliable, no wonder you can’t hold down a job.”

3. Belittling Intelligence: Mocking someone’s intelligence or making jokes about their lack of knowledge can undermine their self-esteem.

“Are you sure you graduated high school? It’s not that hard to understand!”

4. Cultural or Ethnic Stereotypes: Jokes that perpetuate stereotypes about specific cultural or ethnic groups can be offensive and perpetuate harmful biases.

“ You’re always so cheap, just like people from your country.”

5. Sensitive Topics: Making jokes about sensitive subjects like mental health, trauma, or personal struggles can be emotionally distressing.

“ Your ex dumped you because you were so clingy, it’s no surprise

6. Inappropriate Language: Using offensive language or slurs in jokes can deeply hurt others and create a hostile environment.


“ You’re such an idiot! Can’t you do anything right?”

7. Gaslighting Humor: Jokes that undermine someone’s perceptions or emotions can be manipulative and emotionally abusive.

“You’re always overreacting. It’s just a joke, can’t you take one?”

The Fine Line: Jokes vs. Manipulation

It is crucial to distinguish between harmless jokes and harsh jokes manipulation. Jokes, when delivered with mutual consent and good intentions, can strengthen bonds and create shared laughter. However, when humor becomes a means of control or belittlement, it crosses the line into manipulation.

The key to discerning between jokes and manipulation lies in self-awareness, intent, context and open communication. Only the individual experiencing the interaction can truly understand how it affects them. If a seemingly light-hearted remark leaves you feeling hurt, disrespected, or uneasy, it’s crucial to speak up about it and express your feelings to the other person.

Additionally, repetition is a critical factor to consider. Harmless jokes may occasionally miss the mark or cause minor discomfort, but genuine good intentions are evident, and such incidents are isolated. In contrast, manipulation is characterized by a repetitive pattern of hurtful comments that consistently demean and control the target. If you find yourself repeatedly subjected to jokes that cause emotional distress, it’s essential to recognize this pattern as potential manipulation.

Boundary — Keeping Yourself Safe from Harsh Jokes

Another crucial aspect to consider is that the perpetrators of the jokes may not always be fully aware of the impact their words have on others. Assuming that someone knows the hurt they’re causing can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. This is where setting and maintaining healthy boundaries becomes vital.

When you establish healthy boundaries, you empower yourself to speak up when your emotional limits have been crossed or when someone’s jokes become hurtful. It also gives you the strength to distance yourself from individuals who consistently disregard your boundaries, fostering an environment of respect and self-care. By proactively communicating your boundaries, you provide others with the opportunity to understand the impact of their words, fostering more open and empathetic communication in relationships.


In conclusion, recognizing the fine line between harmless humor and hurtful manipulation is essential in fostering healthy and respectful relationships. Jokes can be a powerful tool for bonding and laughter, but they can also be used to demean and control others. We must not underestimate the impact of our words, and likewise, we must not assume that others are fully aware of the hurt they may be causing.

It is crucial to set and maintain healthy boundaries, empowering ourselves to speak up when our emotional limits are violated or when harsh jokes cross the line. By voicing our feelings and concerns, we create an environment of understanding and empathy, where open communication prevails, and respect for one another flourishes. Embrace the strength in asserting ourselves and standing up against hurtful behavior, paving the way for healthier connections built on trust, kindness, and genuine laughter.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these subconscious patterns for good (in less than 2 months) using Mind Shifting, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.


1. https://themendproject.com/joking/

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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