What Is Banter? Examples And Applications For Your Relationship

Updated June 17, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
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Initial meetings can be filled with a number of emotions and different outcomes. Since most people are eager to impress a new person and put their best foot forward, many of them begin their relationships with a playful back-and-forth style of communication. This often involves using teasing, jokes, and other forms of light, playful interaction that allow both people to feel safe, comfortable, and excited, all while getting a feel for how the other person thinks and behaves. This light, playful, teasing form of communication is usually classified as "banter," which can help a relationship thrive and grow.

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Discover how banter can help a relationship grow

What is banter?

Banter is a communication style built on playful camaraderie, wit, and relaxation. The purpose of banter is not to get to know someone's deepest secrets but to create a comfortable, easy connection. When you banter with someone, you are essentially laying the groundwork for longer, more engaging interactions and comfort, which allow the two of you to get to know each other more deeply and at a quicker pace.

Banter is not wholly relegated to initial interactions; however, banter is a form of communication that is also often used in familiar relationships and can be used synonymously with playful, lighthearted teasing. Many couples utilize banter well into their relationships, taking this type of speech into marriage and old age.

Some psychologists have even asserted that banter is an important means of communication for young children. Speaking playfully, lightheartedly, and engagingly teaches children how to communicate with ease. It also affords them stronger communication skills than traditional baby talk, plain speech, or communication patterns that have been watered down to accommodate children.

Bantering application

Bantering is a fun, playful way to get to know someone and to let yourself be known. In new relationships or polite relationships (think colleagues, neighbors, and similar relationships), banter may work most effectively when it focuses on the external: the work you do, your surroundings, or experiences you have both been a part of. Bantering in these situations is usually more about building trust and familiarity than anything else, and you are often aiming to create a relaxed and inviting atmosphere.

In a long-term or long-standing relationship, the role of bantering might be different; rather than focusing on creating trust, banter can help nourish and encourage further development of intimacy and closeness. In close relationships, bantering often uses inside jokes and long-ago memories to function, while focusing less on external experiences and observable facts.

Bantering is an exercise in vulnerability, trust, and confidence. Being turned down or not being engaged with during an attempt to banter can be painful and frustrating and can make it feel as though you are better off hanging back and avoiding relationships and openness. 

Examples of appropriate banter

Used properly, banter encourages connection and intimacy. In new relationships and old, romantic, and platonic, banter can add an exciting dimension to your conversations and foster a sense of intimacy and familiarity with someone. To use banter properly, try to keep the focus on light and playful exchanges. Teasing someone about something they are deeply insecure about, for instance, can be hurtful rather than playful. Banter may be easier in a close relationship because there is often enough familiarity and intimacy to know, automatically, what is and is not off-limits.

When banter is being used in a workplace setting, the rules can often be different. In the workplace, banter is useful to improve team morale and increase feelings of trust, safety, and inclusion. When banter is being used in the workplace, it can be helpful to include as many colleagues as possible and never veer into extremely personal territory. In a close friendship, bantering about someone's persistent incompetence in applying eyeliner may be acceptable, but this could feel like an attack in a workplace setting. Workplace banter may be more effective when it focuses on situations and experiences rather than on personal stories or traits. In an office, you and your colleagues might banter about your manager's seeming incompetence or the poor scheduling habits of your supervisor. These allow you to bond over experiences without touching on the personal side of things.

Similar rules can apply when banter is used as an icebreaker: try not to comment on a person's appearance or any perceived shortcomings. Instead, focus on experiences—a college class, the grocery store you are both patronizing, or a book store's selection. You can also banter about surface-level attributes, such as someone's perpetually bored expression or a questionable choice of attire. However, even this can tread dangerous waters; if you are not familiar with one another, you might not possess the rapport to engage in such a familiar way.

Is banter useful in relationships?

Banter can be a useful addition to any relationship, as it can increase feelings of closeness, intimacy, and comfort. Close relationships, whether they are romantic or platonic, rely on the ability to maintain intimacy and a feeling of safety with one another, which banter can help provide. Banter allows people to talk to one another freely, openly, and honestly, without the pressure of a serious conversation. Between people in an already-established relationship, banter can be an effective way to demonstrate how well you know one another.

One study evaluated banter in established relationships and found that couples who were able to banter together were more likely to express satisfaction than couples whose friendly, teasing, and intimate interactions were one-sided or absent. Since banter allows you to be open and free in interacting with someone, it can provide a much-needed reprieve for individuals in committed relationships.


What does banter do?

Banter essentially sets people at ease. When you banter with someone, you invite them to let their guard down and engage with you in a way that offers closeness and intimacy, with a bit of good-natured ribbing thrown in. Someone who is sensitive or uneasy might feel unhappy or uncomfortable with banter. Still, many people enjoy the playful teasing banter provides, as it allows them to speak freely about their mistakes, pitfalls, or flaws in the company of friends or loved ones who can join in on the joke, rather than offering a verbal lashing.

When banter grows harmful

Although banter is usually a positive thing, it can also grow harmful. The most common source of harm in banter is an unequal relationship. If one person in a relationship loves the playful back-and-forth of bantering, but another person does not, it may not be banter at all but a series of insults. Since most banter involves some level of teasing, if two people (or a group of people) are not on board with the tone of the conversation, banter can feel extremely hurtful, abrasive, and even abusive.

Banter can also be harmful if it is used as a source of punishment. This form of communication is intended to be light, playful, and intimate, not cruel or torturous. It is possible, though, to punish someone using so-called "banter" by making an unkind comment, followed up by a small push and a "You know I'm kidding!" Banter involves a give-and-take; if there is no give-and-take occurring, it may not be banter, but verbal abuse.

Banter can also grow harmful in workplace interactions. Although banter can be a way for coworkers to develop a close bond with one another, it can also increase unequal power dynamics if superiors and their subordinates use it. If a subordinate initiates a banter-heavy conversation, banter is likely all right. Still, if someone in authority initiates a conversation using banter, it could feel like an attack rather than a fun or empowering exchange.

Discover how banter can help a relationship grow

Online counseling with Regain

Banter can be difficult to get the hang of, and not everyone enjoys bantering back and forth. If you’ve tried to use banter and have been experiencing rejection, consider speaking with a licensed therapist at Regain. Regain is an online counseling platform that offers guidance to individuals experiencing a wide range of concerns. Whether you’re trying to overcome rejection or wanting to learn more about effective communication, a therapist can help you move toward these goals. Although it can be time-consuming and costly to receive therapy, online counseling removes many of these barriers. You can receive support without having to worry about insurance and connect with your therapist from your home. Reach out whenever you feel ready to make the next step in your mental health journey.

The efficacy of online counseling 

Being rejected can lead to feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, and more. These cognitive and emotional consequences may be able to be addressed in online counseling, according to this study. Comparing a face-to-face psychodynamic counseling intervention to an online one, researchers found that each modality was similarly effective. Those receiving online therapy experienced fewer symptoms of depression, interpersonal sensitivity, and anxiety. They also had less psychological distress overall and more life satisfaction. 


Although banter can turn into unhealthy territory, it is often a light, fun, and engaging manner of speaking. If you have found that your attempts to banter are met with icy stares or blank gazes, it may be time to evaluate your tactic. Bantering can walk a fine line toward insulting, and it can be important to know the difference between the two when interacting with other people. While bantering can bring joy and positivity to a relationship, insults can strip it of these same things. Done right, though, using banter can help you spark new relationships, have successful interactions with your coworkers, and maintain long-lasting love. If your communication skills are lacking or you’re having trouble interacting with others in a healthy way, an online counselor can help you address these issues. As you grow in your relational skills, you may also find that your satisfaction with life increases as well. 

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