Bullying is a complex issue that exists across various age groups. It can manifest in different forms, Sometimes, even laughter that is generally considered healthy and joyful can turn into a subtle or overt form of bullying, depending on the context. In this article, we’ll explore whether laughing at someone is a form of bullying.

Understanding Bullying and Laughter

In simple terms, bullying is repeated aggressive behaviour targeted at a person to put them down or harm them in certain ways. Bullying can be both physical and verbal. Laughter, on the other hand, is usually linked with happiness and joy. Yet, laughter can occasionally play a role in bullying, depending on different factors, such as:

  • Intention and Impact

Inherently, laughter isn’t harmful or hurtful, but the intention behind the laugh also matters. If someone is laughing at a joke or good news, it isn’t usually considered hurtful. However, when laughter is targeted towards a specific person, to ridicule or put them, it can indicate a subtle form of bullying and can hurt the victim’s feelings] significantly. The impact on the person being laughed at is crucial in determining whether it qualifies as bullying.

  • Mockery

Mocking someone can be considered a form of bullying. Many times, mocking is also followed by laughter, which can leave the other person feeling even worse than they were feeling before. When people laugh at someone, to demean them, it can be considered another subtle form of bullying. Such mocking laughter can have a huge impact on the mental health of the victim, contributing to feelings of shame and humiliation.

  • Form of Superiority

Sometimes laughter can be a tool used by bullies to put others down or a way to show their dominance over the victim. Thus, laughter can be a subtle way to exert control or show disrespect towards the targeted person.

  • Laughing At Someone Being Bullied

Some people do not directly participate in bullying, but they might continue to watch or laugh while someone is being bullied. Although this isn’t a direct form of bullying, it provides validation and encouragement to the bullies. In a way, laughing at victims of bullying is a subtle way to demean or make fun of them.

  • Reaction From The Other Person

Whether laughing at someone is considered bullying largely depends on the other person’s response. If the other person is at ease with being the subject of a joke and willingly laughs along with others, it may not be classified as bullying. In fact, casual teasing is normal among friends. However, when people purposefully present mean comments or insults as jokes with the intent to hurt the other person, it can be seen as a subtle form of bullying. Some forms of bullying involving laughter are:

  • Disguising mean comments as a joke
  • Name-calling or shaming
  • Blaming the other person for being ‘too sensitive’ after insulting them.
  • Laughing at someone in public, especially when their shortcomings or mistakes are highlighted, causes them to feel embarrassed.


In summary, laughter isn’t inherently bad. In fact, teasing or making light jokes is part of healthy friendships. However, when laughter is used to put someone down, demean or insult them, or assert one’s superiority, it can easily take the form of bullying, Such bullying or mocking laughter can lead to feelings of shame and worthlessness among the victims and may even contribute to the onset of depression or anxiety in them.

Want to know more about why some people bully others, click here to read our article on the psychology of bullying


  1. Get a Bully to Stop Teasing You at School and Work. (n.d.). Verywell Family. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-deal-with-teasing-and-subtle-forms-of-bullying-4065070
  2. The Fine Line Between Joking and Bullying. (n.d.). Issuu. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from https://issuu.com/kmbi/docs/communi-k_healed._empowered._restored/s/13338651
Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin