How to deal with someone who makes fun of you or dominates you

There’s a difference between two friends joking and someone making fun of you or trying to dominate you. In this guide you’ll learn:

  1. The 2 best tricks to always know how to reply
  2. The mistake most people make when someone is making fun of them
  3. How to get the upper hand on the “funny guy/girl”
  4. Ignore the dominant person
  5. Good comeback phrases
  6. 6 ways to spot toxic people and bad friends
  7. The sentence that forever stops people from dominating you (ONLY if you care about your relationship)
  8. A quick trick to deal with bullying (that you can do right now!)

[If you’re looking to get more respect in general, you should read my guide 18 tricks that make people respect you]

First, we’ll focus on 2 EASY tricks to always know how to reply (even if you’re not a witty and quick thinker)

1. Turn their dominating behavior against them using the Play Along-method

The first trick turns someone’s dominating behavior against them.

This trick helps you to:

  1. Respond quickly when someone makes fun of you or tries to put you down
  2. Stand up for yourself (without yelling or showing that it bothers you).
  3. Keep your cool and come out on top (without being too rude)

To give you an inside look, here’s how some of our readers describe their problems:

“My colleagues try to dominate me and make fun of me. And if I try to answer them they just laugh at me. I don’t know how to reply.”

“I got 3 roommates and I’m the butt of every damn joke. They’re all witty and I can’t seem to think of anything quickly and when I look at them I can’t think of a rebuttal. They make inside jokes, jokes that only work on me and they keep it on cycle every day and make new ones all the time.”

“I’m scared I will blurt something out that I don’t mean and then they will ask more questions. This will lead to the person making fun of me more.”

“We joke around but then she starts dominating me and saying really hurtful things about my face. I know she thinks it’s a joke but when I give her hints that I don’t like it she keeps doing it. I’ve told her to stop but she sometimes won’t.”

Can you relate to any of those examples?

The mistake most people make when they reply to someone making fun of them or joke on their expense:

  • Bully: “So what movies do you like, you know, except for pornos? Hahahaha”
  • You: “Haha, yeah right!” or “Shut up!” or “Haha, no I don’t!”
  • Bully: “I knew it! HAHAHA”

Do you see the problem with these kinds of replies? They all make it seem like the bully said something funny, even if it wasn’t. It’s also the exact type of reply they expect, which makes it more fun for them (but not for you).

So if you reply in this manner when you feel uncomfortable, you’re giving them exactly what they’re looking for.

Everyone around you will most likely chime in with the laughter. And it’s not because they don’t care about your feelings, they just don’t realize how bad you feel. And since the “funny one” got the response they were looking for, they’re more likely to do it again in the future.

But we don’t want to give them what they want.

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Instead, we can turn the joke on the one who said it.

This is my favorite trick to deal with annoying people or people who feel like they need to be dominant. It’s effective and easy to use for beginners just starting to find their voice against the “funny guy/girl”.

Here’s the trick: Agree TOO MUCH with their stupid question or statement with a poker face.

Don’t laugh with them, don’t smile, just give them your answer with a straight face.

The reason this works is that your response will be the opposite of what they expect. They will either be at a loss for words or they will look like a complete idiot if they try to push the joke further.

When you respond this way, your irony will be obvious. Everyone will see your disapproval and will realize that what the “funny one” said wasn’t funny at all. And then it ends awkwardly for the bully because they will be the only one laughing.

Here’s an example of how you get the upper hand on the “funny guy/girl” by agreeing TOO MUCH:

  • Funny one: “So what movies do you like, you know, except for pornos? Hahahaha”
  • You: “Oh, you didn’t know? I only watch pornos.”
  • Funny one: “… well then.”

Again, avoid laughing or smiling while responding with something like that.

After that, you change the topic and continue talking as if nothing happened. If possible, ignore the “funny one” and any further attempts they make at the same kind of joke. Focus on someone else in the group and change the subject.

Being non-reactive while you “agree” makes your disapproval crystal clear to everyone.

You’re basically treating them like your irritating little brother. This shows that you do not tolerate bad behavior like that and gives you the upper hand.

2. Ignore the dominant person with my 4-step method (And turn the joke on them)

The second technique is also very easy to use even if you’re not a witty quick thinker.

You can ignore the bully altogether. When you don’t give them any response, you take away their sense of gratification. That takes them out of the conversation and leaves them with no control over the situation.

Most who try to ignore someone fail because they still give away that they are annoyed.

So how do you actually ignore the bully?

  1. First off, don’t show any form of reaction. Act as if you never heard their comment at all.
  2. Then, continue the conversation from where it was before they made their rude comment. This is a cue to both the bully and the other people you’re talking to that you’re not tolerating that kind of behavior.
  3. It’s important to continue the conversation with someone else after you ignored the bully. Because otherwise, it’s not clear if you disapprove or just don’t know how to reply.
  4. If you blank out or don’t know how to reply, it’s better to use the previous technique of “agreeing TOO MUCH” with the bully.

To see how well this technique actually works, imagine this scenario, with Cary, a bully, and you:

– Cary: “Who’s joining me at the beach tomorrow? It’s supposed to be a gorgeous sunny day.”

– Bully: “Definitely not John – he’s too pale to be allowed to take his shirt off. He’ll blind you if you don’t have your sunglasses on!”

– And then you can respond like this: “Going to the beach sounds lovely. I’m free after 12 if that works for you?”

Do you see how your response makes the bully seem rude?

Ignoring someone like this makes it clear don’t tolerate their behavior. (And you don’t have to sink to their level or be rude or mean.)

Don’t make the mistake of looking angry at the bully or look annoyed. For this to work, you have to act like you truly didn’t hear what they said.

When you ignore the bully, they might even try harder to fit into the group.

So instead of making insulting jokes, they’re more likely to follow the vibe of the conversation.

If you ignore their comments long enough, there may be a chance that they’ll start playing nice to fit back in.

Another effect might be that the bully resigns from the group.

If you ignore someone long enough, it’s likely they will not even want to be a part of the group.

If we EFFECTIVELY ignore their comments for a long period of time, they’ll stop making comments.

3. How to always have a good comeback phrase

Sometimes you want a good comeback to make someone shut up when they make fun of you. This can be quite tricky when you blank out, or like me, come up with your reply first when it’s all over. (Read more about how to never be nervous around people over here.)

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Here is a universal comeback phrase (that you can reply with in almost any situation):

– Interesting that you’d say that, how do you mean?

This one is good if you want to confront someone about what they said. It takes all the fun out of it for them when they have to explain themselves. And just like the method of “agreeing too much/ironically”, it doesn’t give them the response they expect.

If you want to be a bit wittier, here’s some inspiration on funny (and mean) comebacks.

14 funny comeback phrases and quotes

  1. Remember when I said you’re smart? I lied.
  2. If I wanted to kill myself, I’d climb your ego and jump to your IQ.
  3. You should eat some makeup. That way you’ll at least be pretty on the inside.
  4. Acting like a dick won’t make yours any bigger.
  5. It’s amazing how stupid people can be. Thank you for showing that to me.
  6. You’re about as useful as a raincoat in a desert.
  7. Your ass must be jealous of the shit coming from your mouth.
  8. Do you ever think about how your life would be if you grew up in a better family?
  9. You got all your life left to be a douchebag. Why not take the day off?
  10. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings when I called you dumb. I thought you knew.
  11. You’re cute when you open your mouth. You make funny noises when you try to sound cool.
  12. You know what? You always make me so happy……when you leave the group.
  13. Too bad you can’t use makeup on your personality.
  14. You know, I was pro-life before. Then I met you.

Use these phrases with caution, because in certain situations, they might backfire. When you use them, it’s important that you do it in a joking manner. Doing it jokingly will be just as effective as if you were to do it seriously, but you don’t risk starting a conflict or even a fight.

4. The 6 ways to spot toxic people and bad friends

It’s important to know the difference between a real friend who makes a mistake and a fake friend or a bad/toxic person. A real friend is always worth a second shot, but you need to cut the bad ones out of your life.

Here are 6 common signs to help you see your “friend” in a better light. Can you relate to any of those behaviors?

  1. They do things without your permission and even if you don’t want to
  2. They try to make you feel guilty
  3. They lie and say untrue things to get the upper hand
  4. They are nice one-on-one, but they try to dominate you in groups with other people
  5. They ignore you and don’t listen to you
  6. They don’t apologize

I’ve written about 20 ways to tell fake friends from real friends over here.

5. The sentence that forever stops people from dominating you (ONLY if you care about the relationship)

Here’s a more diplomatic route you can take if you value a relationship.

Keep in mind that this sentence works in any type of relationship where you are both motivated to get along.

It’s your responsibility to tell the bully how you feel if you want them to stop. They are at fault, but since they’re usually not aware of how their behavior affects you, you need to make them aware of it.

So when you’re alone with the person that’s causing you trouble, say something along these lines:

“Sometimes you say things that I don’t like.

One example is when you joked about my new sweater. I feel belittled when you make comments like that. It’s probably not what you had in mind, but I want you to know how that made me feel.”

There are a few tips I have that will help you get through to the person:

    • Don’t generalize. Don’t say something like “You always try to dominate me”. It would only make the person defensive and they would not understand what they’re doing wrong.
    • So instead, give a specific example. Since the person may not realize they’re doing it, it’s best to give them an exact instance of this happening.
    • Tell the person how YOU feel opposed to what THEY should do and not do, because no one can argue against the feelings you have, but they can argue what they should do and not do.
    • Saying something like “It’s probably not what you had in mind” shows you are trying to fix the situation.

I know that it takes courage to kind of open up to someone who’s causing you harm, but standing up for yourself will be worth it in the long run.

I’ve also written more here about how to get more respect from people around you.

6. A final quick trick to deal with bullying (that you can do right now!)

The trick is to share your experiences with others.

Doing this helps you feel better which will give you a mental edge the next time someone tries something on you.

Telling your friends, family, or even sharing it here will show you’re not going through this alone.

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So the first step for you is this:

Comment below and share your experiences about dominating people or bullies. When you do, you’ll notice how the problem isn’t yours, but the bully’s.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments (185)

185 thoughts on “How to deal with someone who makes fun of you or dominates you”

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  1. When we are on a group of friends including the bully and my ex. The bully always mentions our past relationship and talks dirty shit to me. Ex is relly over it but I’m not and that makes me feel shamed and anxious.

    Reply
  2. Great article. Especially #1 and #2, as I think I can train myself to do these. I may not be quick enough to remember the others in time. One question I have … does the person who makes fun of you really have insecurity issues? That is, is it true that only an internally insecure or non-confident person would actually try to make fun of another? People tell me this, and then say to ignore them or feel pity for them instead, but I find it hard to want to remain friends with someone who consistently makes fun of me and laughs at others too in the “just joking” way. I also find it hard to feel sorry for the bully.

    Reply
  3. My boss and a Co worker make fun of the way I dress. I always dress very smart, stylish but with a bit of quirkiness. I’m very confident in my dress sense but these guys don’t let up. I can handle it infront of them but inside it makes me so hurt and angry and pushes me to want to retaliate with an awful comment back. I really don’t want to do that as I just end up feeling like I’ve fallen to their level. It would be easier as they dress awful and dull in my eyes but I would hate to hurt their feelings. What’s the best thing to do? I’ve had a private word with my boss and he knows I’m unhappy with it, he apologised and had a word with my Co worker and I thought it was sorted but it lasted only a week! Then back to the same old ridicule. Any ideas?

    Reply
  4. The awkward silence occured when there is a connection problem, or someone isn’t invested in the conversation, or there is an agenda. Two mature people, that don’t try and dominate, will never have an uncomfortable silence. Because they understand the art of conversation, and the joy of connecting without needing to bully, dominate, force an agenda.

    Reply
  5. Yesterday I was at the airport picking up a friend. I was wearing a tie dye outfit, face shield and mask. A man without a mask stopped, pointed and laughed at me, not once but twice. It felt like an elementary school bully. As he walked away the second time, I made a comment, but no one heard. What do you do about something like this?

    Reply
    • Just a thought, what if you pointed at him and laughed even louder? It’s hard to think of things at the time, and I always suddenly revert to childhood and a real fear of my dad. But nobody now can hurt me like he did then.

      Reply
  6. My husband always hollers at me when I don’t do something right and then he says he doesn’t he talks down to me I try to take up for myself but it’s not working and sometimes when he’ll ask me a question and I give him the answer back he marked me and make fun of the way I talk I’m so tired of it can you help me!!

    Reply
  7. I’ve learned regardless of where you go or who you associate with people are generally the same. “Friends”, co workers, everyone. The sad truth is society has an image of how you should look or act and when you’re not like them, you get no respect. It can really give you a complex mentally if you constantly think you’re not good enough to be accepted. Just remember to be yourself.. no matter what, you have a voice and you are important regardless of how others make you feel. People only use you to mask their own insecurities but, it doesn’t matter.

    Reply
  8. I don’t exactly know why, but all my friends and people surrounding me just make fun off me every time whenever I try to say some thing, I have even tried to be quite still they make fun off me. No matter I say something or not everyone makes fun of me and whenever I try to defend myself everything ends up with a conflict. Its again that if i make fun of them everyone gets angry on me and more over expects that I shouldn’t feel bad when they make fun off me. I am totally disturbed due to such situations

    Reply
    • So yes. I agree with all you are saying because I deal with it alot. I thought they were my friends but I found out I was really just their last option. Today I went to my sport and my “Friend” walked up to me and pointed to me laughing saying “What are you wearing, and why? It doesnt look good on you”. I the told her that ” Someday somebody needs to punch you in the face so you can learn a lesson.” My mom said that I should handle it a diffrent way. That’s how I ended up on here. I am sorry to hear about your friends. I deal with it from so many of my friends. It sucks.
      DO NOT GIVE THEM THE TIME OF DAY. As much as you “WANT” to hang out witht hem. DONT!! They need to think your busy or have friends besides them. Even if it means being alone in public. I know…It sucks.

      Reply
  9. I am not dealing with a real bully I guess, just someone who doesn’t care and doesn’t respect me, making some nasty not funny remarks about me in jest or not even trying to be in jest. and still I don’t know what to do. I’ve asked to speak nicely but it’s not getting me anywhere. It’s not like we’re in a relationship or anything, but I feel I have what to gain from our friendship, it made me feel much better in life in the few weeks that I’ve known him, freer because he is chill, but that chill is costing me.. I don’t know how to get it back. it could be because I have deprecated him, gotten too close with my remarks.. so I will try to never put him down, and treat him well, and not too personal, so he won’t feel too free with me.. I guess. I hope that’ll work. not be too sweet and not too sour

    Reply
  10. This was very helpful. I’ve never had to deal with someone like the person I’m dealing with now. Generally I’ve never received this sort of disrespect or been the butt end of jokes. My co worker has gotten very comfortable with me and really says some lame jokes directed towards me. It’s a 3 man work crew throughout the day, he spends most of the day with me but when the other co worker joins in, he’s extremely observant of everything I do and just makes a lame ass joke about anything, at first I wasn’t bothered but now the other guy just joins in and laughs as well (at some shit that’s really not funny at all). I’m not the type of guy who play fights or cracks jokes at anyone else so it’s just annoying at this point. Funny thing is he’s not like that when he’s alone with me, just when the other guy comes around. He’s a short, chunky, bald head guy with a beard and I really should have the jokes on him, but I’m not that witty or like to engage in that type of behavior. My initial reaction that goes through my head is literally beating this bitch to a pulp but I don’t think that would be the right reaction. I want to handle this correctly for the sake of all my co workers and my career. I thought about approaching him when we’re alone in the truck and pointing out that it’s funny he doesn’t talk shit to me when we’re alone, to see if he notices how much of a punk he is, then from there we can handle it however he likes. I’ve been dreading going to work all of a sudden because of this motherfucker and I love what I do but man do I really feel like really letting out some rage on this dude. Sorry just needed to vent and thank you for the article, would appreciate any outside feedback. (Also the rebuttals provided in the article would never work amongst my co workers, it’ll probably make the situation worst).

    Reply
    • I think your idea of just asking him when you’re alone why he does it, is perfect, it is honest and fulfills the idea of expressing how you feel.
      Otherwise how about:
      “That would have been funnier if you had hair.” Or
      “Very funny, Mario brother.”
      But I agree with you that canned responses don’t always work so great. :p

      Reply
  11. Thank you for this article, very useful indeed especially that I was talking with some friends yesterday evening about what I will be writing below and the fact that I always block when I am intimidated or bullied and don’t know what to answer, thinking something like “shit, what do I reply now”. So, I am bullied/intimidated at work by a specific colleague who almost always when he gets the chance makes fun of me that I have both a house and an apartment and sometimes I live in one place or another. The house is actually where my parents stay, so sometimes I also stay with them. Additionally, he also sometimes makes sexual jokes too, engaging the other colleagues in joking as I usually tried to reply in laughter and playing along. I understand now that my reply is not good. He is my counterpart more or less, he is younger than me with around 8 years and is not from the same city in which we work, city in which I was also born. Obviously, thinking now that bullying is not my problem, but his, I can understand now more to why is his problem. Maybe he had it rough moving to a new city, away from his parents for example and being by himself. And, maybe I also triggered this in him when a few years ago I asked him personal questions about where and how he lives and sleeps.

    Reply
  12. Viktor, thank you for your wise words. I apologize if this offends anyone. I learned early on that I needed some ammunition having been raised by a mother who constantly belittled me and told me that I would never amount to anything. Thus, I developed an insane, off-the-wall sense of humor. Your snappy comebacks resonated with me so I took the liberty of adding a few of my own. Sometimes I can think on my feet and zap the bully right away. Sometimes not. Memorizing some of these helps; however, my motto to my students when I was teaching was, “Adapt & Modify,” according to the situation. Below is my offering. (Note: I stole the first one from Better Call Saul).

    15. Q: What do they call 100 property managers buried up to their necks in cement? A: Not enough cement. (change profession, as appropriate).

    16. You’re as useful as a screen door in a submarine; or, you’re as funny as a pay toilet in a diarrhea ward.

    17. Class action suit! Proof of brain damage from drinking the water in [town name].

    18. I want to invite you over to see my new woodchipper.

    19. You could be right, but that’s OK—I don’t like you anyway!

    20. I baked some cookies for you. They are perfectly safe—I promise.

    Reply
  13. There was a time when I didn’t wear spects properly. The teacher has pointed that in funny way. The class was laughed.
    After many years me and my frnds were talking about our college days.One of the friend reminded that once sir told me about spects to all my frnds… Again they have laughed.
    I didn’t like that one.

    Reply
  14. Very helpful thank you.

    I was onc bullied by a guy at a bar he kept inventing up wrong names for me, touching my ass what more is he kept following me. I was frightened and frozen and terrified. Moved to another city!

    Reply
  15. I have some “friends” that always make fun of me, since my “English is not to good,” and always they are try no make me feel less and make people lock as me as a retard, how do I stop being “friend” with does guys, if I just to talk with them all the “time” making it monotonous?,I want to stop being friend with them, because their are so toxic and ass kissers.

    Reply
  16. These tips are really great. Thank you.

    I am an American but now I live in Europe. Learning to speak German and adapt to my new life have not been easy, but I’ve really tried. I work as a mail carrier and everyday I have to come into contact with a man who always belittles me. He will usually make fun of my German. His coworker is so nice to me, I feel like she’s overcompensating just because she feels bad that he’s so rude. Almost everyday I meet people who tell me that my German is great, and of course that makes me feel good, but as soon as I come into contact with this particular man, I feel like a blubbering idiot. I would never try to make someone feel so small. I don’t understand why he’s doing it to me.

    Reply
    • Since he doesn’t appreciate your efforts of speaking to him in his native tongue, then speak to him in English. If he can’t understand you then that’s his problem. When people mock my Spanish, I just look at them and say, ”if you prefer, I can speak to you in English.” Usually, English is not their first language, so they tend to get the drift and back up.

      Reply
    • Can you compare your German to his English like “better than your English, dude” or just tell him F.U. in German?
      Just a thought. Bullies usually do it because they feel bad about themselves; I try to remember to pity them rather than get mad, but it’s not easy in the moment.

      Reply
  17. My mom and dad always tries to dominate me. i always thought that they will understand me and kept patience but time went by and they never understood my needs and with time i became aggressive and now when i tries to make them understand that reasons for my nature they always blame that it is beacause they gave me more opportunities to study and that has made my this aggressive and rebellion . whenever i tries to make them understand something’s they say that I am argumenting and sometimes the thing become too much for me . previously i ysed to handle such situations but now my patience is loosing and i easlity react .

    Reply
    • They actually blame the fact that they gave you opportunities to study, for making you rebellious? Well good! Learning is supposed to make you stronger and better able to stand up for yourself! Thank them! 🙂
      I have known people that feel so small that they are jealous when their kids do better than them. I knew a girl whose mom refused to let her take a sports scholarship for college, and told her coach “no, she has chores to do.” Horrible!

      Reply

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