You can laugh with someone or laugh at them. There is a big difference.
At a recent party the host, Kenneth, described a recent misadventure. It was a humorous story and everyone, including Kenneth, laughed. Manny chimed in and started kidding Kenneth about some of his choices. He called them dumb, asked what Kenneth what on earth was he thinking, and made a number of other derogatory comments. Everyone stopped laughing—except Manny. As a result people started leaving, bringing the party to an early end.
What Is The Difference?
As Kenneth related his story, he kept it upbeat and stuck to what happened. While the adventure didn’t end as expected, he highlighted the amusing aspects of his escapade. As a result, everyone laughed with Kenneth, clearly appreciating the humor and also the misfortune; they empathized with Kenneth about the outcome. Manny, on the other hand, used the story to make belittling comments about Kenneth. He laughed at Kenneth, making fun of him. Everyone felt the lack of empathy. None of the other guests appreciated Manny’s comments, recognizing them as mean-spirited and hurtful.
Why Laugh At to Disparage Someone Else?
Some people find it entertaining to make fun of others. The “fun” comes in many different forms, from sarcasm, snide or blatantly mean remarks to attempts at humor that are off target.
People engage in this type of behavior because they get some sort of payback or reward. Seldom are these comments innocent. Some (minority of) people are simply mean. In my experience, the reward is typically a cheap (and short-lived) boost to their own ego and self esteem; they make fun of someone else to make their selves feel better. They focus on themselves and not their target.
What does this have to do with respect?
Laughing at someone is never respectful. Instead, treat everyone kindly and preserve their dignity. Everyone deserves this. Repeatedly disrespecting someone can cause serious emotional and/or psychological harm.
If you enjoy making cutting remarks at someone else’s expense ask yourself, why? What do you hope to get out of the exchange? You can boost your own ego or meet your other needs without taking it out on someone else. Also, most people want to stay away from mean-spirited people and you could find yourself isolated. Recognize all that is good in you. Decide what kind of person you want to be. Respect yourself enough to focus on living up to your potential.It always pays to use words that build others up instead of tearing them down.