Life without humour is like getting a promotion without any salary increase. It’s functional, but it’s no fun.
Well-intentioned humour deserves a place in our lives. It can reduce the starkness of life and give us a glimmer of hope. It makes you attractive to people since you have the ability to give them the precious gift of joy and laughter. You are able to evoke trust, warmth, and affection in people with humour.
This brings comfort and flow to your relationships, enhancing your effectiveness.
Humour is an excellent stress buster. It releases feel-good chemicals, regulates your blood pressure, improves your immunity, and makes you healthier.
A sense of humour to life is the equivalent of what a filter is to photographs. It’s the same photo, but the scars and blemishes have faded out, the creases and wrinkles don’t look so harsh, and everything looks brighter.
There’s a lot to be gained by nurturing a sense of humour…
Here are some tips and benefits of using humour to get you started if you aren’t already the reincarnation of Charlie Chaplin:
1. Immerse humour into your daily life.
It’s important to remember that you may not create original humour, yet you still have the ability to appreciate it. It’s similar to the ability to appreciate music although you may not be a singer or musician yourself. Humour is all around us: in comedy movie genres, plays, comic strips and websites, and stand-up comedians.
You can start by using humour in casual conversations, sharing jokes, puns, and witticisms, and slowly move toward integrating humour into your work. For example, a speaker on marketing could ask the audience the question, “What are the four Ps of marketing?” and the answer would be, “Please, Please, Please, Please.” This wisecrack drives home the difficulty of marketing. Or, if you are giving a talk on instilling values in children, then inserting a one-liner like “Teach your children about tax, eat 30 percent of their ice cream,” can help you instantly strike a rapport with the audience. You can easily find enough humour on the topic of your discussion on the internet and in books.
Make sure to search for the smart, brief, and witty ones relevant to your topic.
Caveat: using humour at work can be tricky, and you need a heightened sensitivity to get it right. Be clear about your objectives and audiences, especially if you are trying to use it in meetings and presentations.
Humour should flow out of you and appear natural. You can lose your audience if you come across as trying too hard. Also, remember that “Brevity is the soul of wit.” don’t go on and on with a joke. Use simple visuals, one liners, and brief jokes to insert a humorous pause in the discussion. Over time, your comic sensibilities will get refined, and you will develop a natural ease with humour.
This is the kind of humour that actually helps you cope with life’s sorrows and sufferings. It is a way of looking at challenges through a humorous lens.
When we make light of a situation, it consequently results in lightness. The burden of worries seems to dissolve into laughter—as if a good laugh has expelled the stress and anxiety from within.
Imagine a person who fractured his leg and ended up in the hospital. When his office colleagues come to visit him, he says, “Don’t you know I am on vacation now?” This immediately infuses smiles all around the room, with the biggest smile on his own face, making it easier for him to cope with his stress. Or, someone who recently went through a breakup with his partner and says to his friend, “Well, at least now I am free to date all the beautiful girls in the city.”
However, not everything can be pushed down with humour. There are unspeakable sorrows and tragedies that might come our way and make it next to impossible to even smile. It’s alright, we need to respect our grief and give ourselves permission to mourn. But, in the less severe disappointments and frustrations that often sprinkle into our lives, it is quite possible to use humour in some of those situations.
Think of two disappointments or frustrations that you have had over the last year. What was the brighter side of these disappointments? If you think hard enough, you will be able to come up with some funny angles to these situations. Self-enhancing humour dilutes our pain and agony and helps shift our perspective toward the situation. It’s a way of taking ourselves out of our misery, and cultivating it helps us grapple better with life’s challenges.
3. Defuse conflict with humour.
Humour is a powerful tool to defuse conflict. It often works as a distraction to release tension. Plus, the fact that you are trying to quell the conflict is a strong indication that you value the relationship. So, by using humour, you are also sending across a message of peace.
Obviously, your intention behind the humour is important, so use it only when you wish to reduce the intensity of the conflict. Once again, humour needs to be appropriate, and sarcasm and ridicule are not funny and will further aggravate the situation. It cannot be used every time or for every conflict, so you need to be sensitive to the other person and to the severity of the situation. You don’t want to elicit a strict “This is not funny” response from the other person. Choose the situation carefully and back off immediately if the other person finds it offensive.
Conflict can be nipped in the bud by apt self-deprecating humour. I remember an instance where a colleague pointed out some calculation errors to another colleague. The colleague responded with, “Oh, I think the fat cells have invaded my brains too. Sorry! I will make the correction.”
She could have chosen an angry repartee saying she was overworked or put the blame on someone else. But by choosing a non-offensive, humorous response, she turned around a difficult situation into an experience of fun and togetherness.
Laughter instantly changes our emotional chemistry. It melts away our temper and reduces the coldness we feel toward the other person in that angry moment. Suddenly, the perceived enemy becomes a friend, and we feel warmly connected.
One of my relatives was an expert at avoiding unnecessary conflicts. Once, when his wife was yelling at him for coming home late, he lovingly responded by saying, “Oh, You look so beautiful when you are angry! Your cheeks are flushed and your eyes are shining.” It caught her off-guard as she had expected an aggressive response. He had successfully distracted as well as disarmed her with flattery, and it did bring half a smile to her face. Of course, it won’t work every time or if there is a chronic problem. But what’s true for sure is that an explosive conflict between a husband and his wife was averted on that day.
Lastly, I must share a story where my teenage son used humour to transform my seething rage into irrepressible laughter. I was scolding him for not having bathed and said, “If you don’t bathe tomorrow, just wait and see what happens,” to which he calmly replied, “I will just stink more.”
Think about all the conflicts you had in the last six to eight months. Were some of them unnecessary? Could you have avoided them? How could you have used humour in those situations?
Think about ways in which you can use humour to avert possible future conflicts. And remember to pack along your humour toolkit for life’s journey. It definitely makes the ride less bumpy.