Self-deprecating humor: how's that working out for you?

Do you use self-deprecating humor in life? If so, do you know people who just don’t seem to get it?

I occasionally engage in self-deprecating humor with friends and family. Just to be clear, I’m definitely not one of those people who wallows in low self-esteem and puts themselves down constantly; I’m a confident person and my self-esteem levels are fine. But I do enjoy making an occasional joke at my own expense, particularly when I’ve had a mildly embarrassing experience or made some silly mistake.

However, I’ve noticed that self-deprecating humor doesn’t always go over well, particularly on social media like Facebook. People get that it’s supposed to be funny and respond appropriately for the most part, by clicking “like” or adding a “Ha ha, I do the same thing!” sort of comment. But I have a few friends who consistently respond with a sly (or even not-so-sly) insult. I’ve even resorted to deleting comments, or, in one case, moving a FB friend to my “restricted” list so that she wouldn’t see my posts and respond with her usual jabs.

So, why do people do this? Do they think people who poke fun at themselves enjoy being insulted, and they’re adding to the hilarity by piling on? Are they disgusted by something they consider a show of weakness? Or should I be wondering if these people have a problem with me personally?

I use self-depreciating humor all of the time. I only know this because most of my friends have mentioned it. If anyone doesn’t seem to get it, I’ve always been mercifully obtuse enough not to notice.

As a teacher, I think it’s important to poke fun at myself fairly regularly: I spend a lot of time Being Right, and it’s only fair that I point out when I am Being Wrong, too. And kids respond best, I’ve found, to a teacher that take their subject very seriously but themselves less so.

In personal interactions I try to be frank about my weaknesses because I think I have a natural tendency to come across as smug and pedantic. I am basically trying to counterbalance that.

That’s my favorite form of humor, whether it really applies to me or not. I use it because I think it’s funny and don’t really care if others get it, though I do end up sighing and shaking my head a lot (with a smile on my face). It adds to the fun when others don’t get it, and if they’re mean in response, well, you just learned something about them. I don’t let mean spirited people bother me so I don’t bother to question their motives.

My default humor is self-deprecating. It’s a defense mechanism of sorts. I’ve never encountered any problems with it, other than I’ve noticed that some people don’t get it.

Like, I might say something like, “You want to get up and dance? OK, fine. I’ll show you how to do the flickted. Because this is the only dance I know.”

And the other person will roll their eyes as if to say “why can’t you just be normal for five minutes?” But most people don’t do this.

On Facebook, snarky people have their own problems (just like here.) Scroll past their comments if you can. If it’s something you can’t let go, the smallest acknowledgment usually sends the bullies running. Don’t let them cramp your style.

I suppose I would if I had a sense of humor.

Nicely put; I agree. At this point in my career, I’m usually in a position of authority and/or teaching the next “generation,” and I think it improves the interaction to subtly (or sometimes otherwise) point out that there’s a human on both ends.

As for people piling on? There are a lot of folks who just don’t express tone very well in writing, and sometimes come across as insulting when they really just meant to be part of the joke. They bother me less than the folks who don’t seem to get that when I’m putting myself down, it’s for humorous intent or to indicate that some mistakes/traits are universal, and try to raise my self-esteem by taking it dead seriously. That can be either a tone failure on my part or an understanding one on theirs. I used to overdo it from time to time and come off looking like I was fishing for compliments/denials, but that’s happened a lot less with practice.

It works for subordinates and certain close friends. Other people, such bosses or clients, don’t appreciate it too much. The worst are people who are your enemies. I had a habit of using it to ease my anxiety during a tense confrontation, but this always resulted in the other person using it against me to make things worse.

I would use it selectively. People who don’t know you won’t respond well to it either because they won’t get the joke.

Why self-deprecate when everyone else is willing to do the work for me?

As with all humor, know your audience. As others have pointed out, in business, bosses generally don’t want to hear it. In casual settings, if you haven’t established yourself as a comedian, it comes off as awkward and tone-deaf. A little goes a long way.

As for what you describe in the OP with others piling on, they are just being dumb-dumbs. It’s like the old “I can talk about my momma, but you can’t talk about my momma!”, instead it’s “I can talk about me that way, but you can’t talk about me that way!” Some people just don’t understand that upfront.