Can’t You Take a Joke?

I’ve been asked, “Can’t you take a joke?” more than a few times, and I bet you have too. Ever notice how it is always after someone has said something that is offensive and disrespectful?

Does the question leave you speechless the way it does me?

sunny day in late fall in the park

Do we take the time to sit down and listen to ourselves and understand how our words are heard by others? Or do we believe our words to be empty and meaningless and therefore, unimportant?

It’s a lame attempt to cover up for a rude statement by shifting responsibility from the speaker to the listener. The original statement and the ‘joke’ question that follows are disrespectful behavior. They take away from our intimacy and enjoyment of each other.

I have an answer to that question. My answer puts responsibility back where it belongs. Even better, it allows me to maintain my self-respect and show respect for others.

Here’s a hint: it’s not a smart-mouthed comeback.

If you were in the stores this weekend, you heard how disrespect contaminates our society. People were verbally and physically rude in pursuit of the right to spend money they don’t have – if the use of credit cards is any indication – for things they don’t need – items on sale were firmly in the ‘want’ category, not the ‘need’ category – for people who may not be grateful to get them.

When people do not respect us we are sharply offended;

yet in his private heart no man much respects himself.
Mark Twain

Keeping respect in our relationships means we must hear the words we say to one another. We only hear our words through their ears when we understand how our words make them feel.  When we hear our words through their ears, we’re more likely to treat them with respect.

To treat others with respect, we must first excel at treating ourselves with respect. We do that by loving ourselves and believing in ourselves – our choices and our fundamental worth as a human being. When we adhere to our values, keep our promises, ask for what we need, and face our problems, we show respect for ourselves.

When we respect ourselves, we have the foundation to respect others and do so by being polite with our words and actions, by listening to what they say, and by showing concern for their feelings and opinions.

Knowing this, the next time someone says something offensive to me, here’s what I’m going to say:

“What you said was not funny. It was disrespectful to me and it was disrespectful to you, and I need you to stop.”

Life Is Honest, Open and True: We all have a choice. We can choose to respect ourselves and we can choose to show respect for others in the words we choose to use.

Do you struggle with using words that are respectful to yourself or others? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!

Related Posts: Listening to Ourselves

Listening is the Secret to Your Success

Are You Listening or Merely Hearing?

The Sound of Silence



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  6. Cynthia

    If you have to ask the person”Can’t you take a joke”, you have violated the first and primary rule of playing a joke on someone…that is… the person it is played on must burst into spontaneous laughter and truly thinks it is funny..

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