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…