10 Reasons Why Your Sense of Humor is No Laughing Matter – Helpful or Harmful Humor

It’s no joke! Humor that is used appropriately can be your best friend or your worst enemy if misused, don’t you agree?

Research has long documented the positive effects a sense of humor has on a person’s health, happiness and success in life. The benefits of humor in the workplace are becoming widely recognized. Both of these statements are in reference to “healthy” humor.

While positive humor has tremendous power to heal and create closeness; negative humor has tremendous power to hurt and distance. How do you define what a “healthy” sense of humor IS and IS NOT?

Five things a “sense of humor” IS!

1. A sense of humor IS a choice of attitude and your willingness to look for, find, and enjoy the “funny” in your everyday life.

2. A sense of humor IS a tool you can use to reduce stress and anxiety, help you escape the seriousness of life that can weigh you down, and increase your ability to deal with life’s daily demands and challenges.

3. A sense of humor IS a release to help you relieve tension, relax, let down your guard, laugh, open up, connect, bond, and improve your relationships.

4. A sense of humor IS a coping strategy to help you succeed in overcoming tragedy, personal loss, embarrassment, hurt, frustration, anger, disappointment, and change. When you learn how to separate “who you are” from “what you do,” you can laugh at your circumstances, without damaging your self worth.

5. A sense of humor IS a magical gift within each of us, which requires feeding, nurturing, and developing. It has the power to attract, invite, include, rescue, protect, preserve, heal, restore, amuse, entertain, energize, and enhance your everyday life and relationships at work and home.

Five things a “sense of humor” is NOT!

1. Having a sense of humor does NOT mean you have to be a comedian or try to make others laugh.

2. Having a sense of humor does NOT require you must have the ability to make quick hilarious remarks, witty come-backs or tell funny stories and jokes.

3. Having a sense of humor does NOT insist you have to laugh at everything, especially if it offends you or if you are the brunt of another’s misuse of humor.

4. Having a sense of humor does NOT provide you opportunity to sling sarcasm or vent feelings of hostility, anger and resentment by using negative come-backs, insults or putdowns.

5. Having a sense of humor does NOT give you permission to say anything that might hurt another’s feelings, ridicule, poke fun, intimidate, alienate, patronize, degrade, belittle, embarrass, pick on or offend.

“It is MORE IMPORTANT to HAVE FUN than to BE FUNNY, isn’t it?”

A quote from Lawrence J. Peter and Bill Dana says: “Realize that a sense of humor is deeper than laughter, more satisfying than comedy and delivers more rewards than merely being entertaining. A sense of humor sees the fun in everyday experiences. It is more important to have fun than it is to be funny.”

How does your sense of humor measure up? Does your sense of humor need some refining?

Humor is meant to improve the quality of your life, and bless others; not to cause harm. Before you can use humor safely and effectively with others, you have to first define it and refine it within yourself.

Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois, works with individuals and organizations who want to learn how to effectively use humor, so they can handle the demands and pressures of work and home, maintain a flexible perspective, develop creative solutions, produce positive outcomes, and have more fun.

Learning to laugh and “hangin’ on with humor” rescued Lois from the distress and despair surrounding her daily life, and initiated her recovery from a brain injury. Her universal message offers hope, motivates participants to be faithful to do the small things, and conquer their challenges one day at a time.

How to Sharpen Your Sense of Humor

Bill Cosby once said, “Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers.” Humor is the saving grace that allows people to cope with life. It can be used to poke fun at a situation or lighten up a conversation. The benefits of having a sharp sense humor from a personal/health standpoint are obvious. After all – laughter is the best medicine; however, it can also be beneficial in the workplace.

According to the “The Humor Project,” over 98% of the 737 CEOs interviewed stated they would much rather hire someone with a sense of humor over someone who didn’t have one. Therefore, spending a little energy to hone that sense may not only be beneficial personally, but also professionally. Here are a few tips to help you sharpen your sense of humor.

1) Watch and Read the Masters
Jack Benny, George Burns, and Groucho Marx are just a few of the masters of humor and wit. Their timing was impeccable and their humor is timeless. Watching these humorists can aid you in developing your own sense of humor. Additionally, read the works of Twain, Wilde, Thurber and other similar humorist. Research witty sayings from people like Winston Churchill. Time spent doing so will not only bring a smile to your face, but also acts as training course in humor. If you find something that “tickles your funny bone,” see Step 2.

2) Start a Humor Log
The vast majority of comedians write out their material, and most keep notes on what works and what does not. Therefore, if you want to “seriously” sharpen your sense of humor, start keeping a journal or notes on what you think is funny or witty.

You can pull quotes and sayings from a variety of resources – from books or off of the internet. Like comedians, categorize them in a way that makes sense to you and then, periodically, go over your notes, so that you are always prepared. For example, you may have a category about that often discussed (but rarely applied) term of teamwork. When your boss starts chatting away regarding the need for everyone to stop thinking about themselves and start working together as a team, a humorous quip to toss into the conversation might be, “Well, it’s true there are no “I’s” in teamwork, but there are two of them in martini.” (I assume your boss has a sense of humor. If not, have him/her read this article.)

Maybe, you could have a category for that fun topic which always seems to pop up at weird times, like during year end holiday parties or birthdays – death. Should you be discussing death with your friends or local undertaker, you might lighten up the mood with, “Well, as Woody Allen once said, “I’m not afraid of death: I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Not only is that snappy, but it also makes you appear to be witty and “well-read.” Bravo!

3) Say Less and Observe More
While saying less seems odd when writing about being humorous, actually it is very fitting. Humor and wit are based on observation – observing a situation or your own or other people’s behavior – and then making a comment.

In comedy, timing is everything. Making what you think is a humorous comment at the wrong time can give one the appearance of being insensitive or crass. Prior to making a comment, observe the situation and those around you and determine if your humorous quip will lighten the pain or add to it. This should take seconds for any intelligent person to ascertain. The best advice came from Johnny Carson, which was, “If you have to think about it – don’t say it.”

4) Aim for Home
The easiest target for your humor should be yourself. Many people feel that in order to be humorous, it’s more fun to insult others. In his book “How to be Funny,” Steve Allen wrote, “If you feel that the comedy of insult is your most natural style, good luck to you. And you’ll need it.” Few can pull off insulting others while not appearing to be unintelligent or uncaring. True, people point to Groucho Marx as an insult king; however, as Allen points out, “Because his image was almost that of a comic-strip character, most of his acerbic remarks did not give offence.”

I assume that your image is not that of a comic-strip; therefore, tread lightly when using your humor to make fun of others. If you research some of the masters mentioned above, you will see that much of their humor was pointed at themselves. Making light of one’s self or one’s situation is the perfect way to add humor to a conversation.

5) Hang with Funny People
If you wanted to be a better tennis player, you would link up with good tennis players. If you want to sharpen your sense of humor, hang with funny people. If you’ve followed Steps 1 and 2, then you will be welcomed to the conversation of most people who have a heightened sense of humor. (You might even be welcomed to the groups of people who lack a sense of humor – but why would you want to hang with those people?)

Watch funny movies. Go to comedy shows of present day comedians who “work clean” like Ellen DeGeneres, Rita Rudner, and Louie Anderson. (I emphasize “work clean,” because true humor and wit doesn’t involve dirty language or the use of “bathroom humor.” Most present day comedians can’t go 5 minutes without using a four-letter word or talking about sex or bodily functions.) Other funny people can aid you in sharpening your sense of humor. And now for the last tip… drum roll please…

Humor in the Workplace: More Important Now Than Ever

Since the recession, companies have downsized and are running trim. Never before have managers and employees been asked to wear so many hats, and do more with less. The time to make the workplace fun again has never been more important.

People are tired of being stressed. People want to be happy, laugh, and enjoy their jobs again.

The benefits to utilizing humor within our workplace are many.

We want our employees to look forward to coming to work each day. We want our employees to be happy when they interact with customers, and each other. Happy employees are motivated, and are more willing to work as a team.

A corporate culture filled with stress leads to illness, burnout, and personnel conflicts-which can easily translate into poor quality and disappointing service levels.

Professionally, people will enjoy speaking with you if you can carry a light-hearted conversation. People are more willing to go to lunch with you if you are entertaining company, rather than counting down the minutes until the check comes. People will want to hire you, buy from you, and work for you if they like you.

Lastly, laughter scientifically helps the human body create endorphins, which relieve pain and induce euphoria. Both can come in handy during a stressful work period. Therefore, everyone should make a focused attempt at incorporating more humor in the workplace, and in their lives outside of the workplace.

Here Are 4 Recommendations for Incorporating Humor in the Workplace Today:

Create a Work Environment Which Fosters Fun and Humor

When applicable and appropriate, allow an environment where employees are encouraged to have fun together as a team. Host themed events, holiday parties, or “Fun Fridays”. Create a “Fun Committee” which can organize creative and interactive team-building activities, such as an “ACME Manufacturing’s Got Talent” lunch series. Hold a funny pumpkin-carving contest, an “Ugly Sweater Day,” or honor tongue-in-cheek monthly awards such as “Most Likely to Drink the Most Coffee by 9:00 a.m.”

Just be sure themes and activities are appropriate within HR guidelines, as opposed to the majority of Michael Scott’s brainstorms on the hit TV series “The Office”. On that note, it is OK to explore the world of practical jokes–just use very good judgment that the recipient will be a very good sport!

Try occasional self-deprecating humor (but don’t overdo it so everyone loses total respect for you). If you are forced to announce an unpopular policy change, lighten the tension by hanging a dartboard with your picture in the employee break room afterwards.

Morale can be much higher when employees look forward to coming to work, if they know today might hold fun and laughter, not just stress and problems.

2. The Internet Is Your Friend

Create a habit of sending humorous gems to your staff every Monday morning. It’s a nice morale boost to start the week. You can easily locate funny jokes, cartoons, blogs, and pictures relating to your industry through using Google and Google Images.

Simply search under keywords such as “business humor,” “accounting jokes,” or “funny advertising”, and you can stockpile months of material at your fingertips. This same search can also be used for YouTube video clips, which has seemingly captured every funny moment in the history of mankind. Such visual enhancers can also be strategically sprinkled into weekly staff meetings or even client presentations.

Sound like time-consuming research?

Take advantage of the “Google Alerts” tool to flag such keywords, allowing you to receive email notifications when new cartoons, articles, or videos are posted on such phrases. Let the Internet do the work for you, and you can be credited with igniting a fresh, fun work environment people will enjoy being a part of.

3. Keep Your Eyes Open

Keep an eye out for comical scenes from movies or TV, which might have some direct or even indirect relevance to your industry.

Did you see something hysterical on Jay Leno’s “Headlines” segment, but didn’t have your TIVO running? Simply visit www.nbc.com the next morning, where you can retrieve and share any such headlines from previous episodes.

Stop by the toy store and buy a recordable talking doll, playfully imitating the boss or an office jokester. Stop by the dollar store, and pick up several denominations of children’s play money. Flash this cash during your next staff meeting or business lunch, with lines such as:

“Great job this year, Steve. Here’s your Christmas bonus!”

“Alright everybody, lunch is on me!”

“There’s more where THAT came from.”

“Sorry, I must have left it in the laundry.”

“What, are you saying my money’s not good here, pal?”

Opportunities for humor present themselves throughout each day. Be prepared to capitalize at any time, as you just might present such humor at the exact moment a stressed-out employee needs it the most.

4. Give Presentations? “Make them laugh or your DEAD”

If your position involves any type of presentations, such as sales, training, or even updates at the weekly staff meeting, remember this rule of thumb: “Make them laugh or you’re DEAD.”

People will pay more attention, learn more, like you more, and purchase more from you if they laugh. If you don’t, the text messages will be flying each time you turn back towards the screen. Most importantly, though, your points will be missed.

Zig Ziglar, one of the most successful motivational speakers in history, knew the power of incorporating humor in his presentations. Throughout his career, Zig would strategically place some type of wit, joke, or funny example every seven minutes during his presentation, no matter the audience or topic. As he determined through research, attention span begins to dip as time between jokes lingered. People pay attention because they don’t want to miss the next joke!

“What if the nature of my job or presentation is serious?”

This means it is ESPECIALLY important for you to include humor. If you work in finance or insurance, people are dreading hearing from you, even if it’s just a 5-minute overview during the weekly staff meeting.

Southwest Airlines has long made a name for itself not only with low fares, but also with funny commercials and colorful flight attendants. And, what could be more serious than safety instructions for those about ready to take off? One flight attendant described the restrooms as “spacious and luxurious powder rooms,” and final instructions included the comment “this is a long flight, so if you’re travelling with children this evening…..we’re sorry.”

Even funeral home directors like to laugh. Goodness, they need humor in their lives more than any of us, don’t they? If you are ever presenting for this group, add a comment such as: “Fortunately for your business, the death rate is still hovering at about 100%.”

You’ll knock ’em dead.

Keep the Laughs Coming

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll be surprised how much you will look forward to going to work when you have something funny to share with others. Creating a habit of incorporating humor in the workplace will provide you with a fresh outlook on your job, and that will become contagious with others.