How to Recognize If You've Become a Bully to Your Friends

We're all guilty of making our friends the butt of our jokes from time to time. I mean, when there's an easy target it's nearly impossible to not take aim.

But while this friendly banter is all fun and games, sometimes someone gets their feelings hurt.

You may not even realize that you've began to target one or more of your friends. Use this list to see if you've unknowingly crossed the line from friend to bully. In your defense, that line can become blurry.

1. They Become Distant

A major sign that there may be a rift in your friendship is that your friend begins to withdraw from you. The distance could be subtle such as a decrease in usual texts or a lack of funny meme tagging. It could also be much more obvious and mean that they ignore you in group hangouts or that they go as far as to leave the room when you walk in.

Helga hitting Brainy in the face

(Hey Arnold! via Nickelodeon)

Sometimes these signs can mean that a friend is withdrawing from the group as a whole, which could insinuate anything from a deeper personal issue or, well, that a defriending is underway. Make a note of these changes and ask yourself whether you've been specifically targeting this friend with your jokes. If your humor is taking a toll on your friend, they probably don't want to be around you.


2. They Rarely Laugh Back

Jokes, of course, are meant to make people laugh. They're funny (unless told by dads) even when they're told at a friend's expense. But if you notice that the pointed humor rarely elicits a chuckle from your friend, take this as a huge hint that they aren't having fun.

Alison being mean to Hanna

(Pretty Little Liars via ABC Family)

If they manage to summon up a giggle, is it genuine? Take a step back and read between the grin. Just because you know you don't mean any harm, they may not feel the same way. It's easy to go on the defense and claim that they're being sensitive, but rather than putting your guard up, pay attention to your friend's body language.


3. They Drop Hints

Communication is important in each and every relationship. So when your friends try and tell you something, it helps everyone if you listen. If you notice that one or more of your friends seem to be dropping subtle hints about your behavior, listen.

Notice the patterns. Do your friends continuously comment on your "mean" jokes? Do they insist that you leave someone alone? Are they quick to compliment or go to the rescue of a friend after you've thrown some humor in their face? If you can answer yes to any of the above then it's time to stop talking and start listening.


4. They Become More (Passive) Aggressive

Bullies are a very specific kind of enemy, especially when one is your friend. While some targets may get distant and engage in avoidance behaviors, others may attempt to clap back. If it seems like all-of-a-sudden a friend comes back at you with harsh comments, ask yourself whether you started an unfriendly game of insult ping pong.

Quinn fighting back with Santana

(Glee via 20th Century Fox Television)

These comments may be passive or straight-up aggressive, but if there is a newfound sense of your friend being able to dish it but not take it, then that's a good sign that they've already taken their fair share. Talking to your other friends about this sudden change may give you even more insight. If a friend has felt bullied by you, then they have more than likely brought it up with the rest of the group.


5. The Tables Turn

It's likely that if you've become an unknowing bully to your friends, your invites may be getting lost in the metaphorical mail and you're feeling left out. You yourself may begin to feel targeted. If this feeling is coming after other above signs have been present, it's time to take a look in the mirror.

What has your attitude or behavior been implying lately? Do you tend to take things too far? Has your humor gotten harsh? Has every hang out turned into your personal roast where friends are in the hot seat?

To be fair, most, if not all, cases of bullying stem from something deeper in a person's life. If you've had trouble at home or you've been the target of someone else's aggression, you may inadvertently be taking that anger out on your friends. It's never too late to turn back, apologize and move forward. Your friends won't give you the permanent cold shoulder once they know what's going on.


Close friendships are bound to have their ups and downs. Click HERE for six annoying things that happen in every friends group.