My first time using this site so sorry if my question was answered before or I'm breaking some sort of rules/ custom this site has.

Let's say someone is taunting another person like: "It's not like you would know anything about it, you don't have a mother."

The other person may respond in someway that caused the taunter to flinched back and a bit afraid.

The taunter then replied with something like : "Okay, okay, sheez. I didn't know that you are this easily triggered."

So what's the word to describe what the taunter is doing at the end there. I want to say he's retracting his statement but he is not quite doing that. I guess remedy/ rectify the situation could work but I doubt it suits the situation.

If any of you has an idea for the word or phrase, I hope you could answer this question. Since I most likely made tons of mistake when asking this question, I would also appreciate people correcting me on how I was supposed to ask the question.

Edit: Thanks to all of you that answered the question. I found an answer I was looking for so once again, thank you. For some unknown reason, I can't accept your answer even though I wanted to, I was clicking on the tick button but nothing happened.

  • Broadly, what he is doing is "backing down"… Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 22:12

2 Answers 2


This would be hard pressed to be categorised as gaslighting, I think. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation done by convincing someone of that they are having a false memories or that their memory is unreliable.

Gaslighting Wikipedia article

Term comes from a theatrical play and movies by that name.

At first the reaction of the taunter is a backpedal (or retraction sort of, as you've noted), from the insult levelled at the person, and adopting an apologetic tone. Whether this style of behaviour is 100% sincere or not is not known outside of context and cues from the behaviour. For example, by responding with such a remark it could be a passive-aggressive way of insinuating that the receiver of insult or criticism is thin-skinned and can't take criticism, or that they simply overreacted and hence the fault for any feeling of slight is on the receiver because they can't handle light-hearted banter or joking around.

  • I see. Thank you for the answer. The term I was looking for was backpedaling. Thank you for also enlightening me on gaslighting and explaining the behavior of the taunter.
    – Kuroxander
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 12:52

What the person is doing is

gaslighting (from Britannica.com):

an elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation, usually practiced by a single deceiver, or “gaslighter,” on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his thinking or feelings.

When the taunter says:

"Okay, okay, sheez. I didn't know that you are this easily triggered."

He's not actually retracting his statement. He's attacking with an ad hominem: a strategy to win a debate by attacking the person instead of the content. It is an easily played strategy to shut down a person without actually having to think what the other says. You'll often find this in people's who feel their ego is attacked.

The actual goal of such an attack is devaluation of others, to make the taunter himself look/feel stronger.

  • I see. Thank you for the answer. Thank you for also enlightening me on gaslighting and adhominem while also explaining to me what the taunter was doing.
    – Kuroxander
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 12:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.