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Building Bonds with Laughter

“Why so serious, son?” – The Joker.

Humor plays a significant role in relationships, but it can be tricky to get it just right. One person thinks sarcasm and irony is funny, and another takes offense.

I think the Joker quote is ironically funny – you may have already taken offense and stopped reading.

It’s worth the effort to get humor just right, because most of the time, most people enjoy a good laugh. 

When you laugh together something happens – your bond with that person gets stronger. That’s why in job interviews I always tried to have the group laugh about something. At a minimum, I figured if I can’t laugh with this team, I probably don’t want to work with them.

“If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas.” (John Cleese)

Here are some dos and don’ts of building stronger bonds through humor.

  1. Your best bet: Self-deprecating humor. Being able to make fun of yourself might not only be funny, it shows humility and self-awareness. Every New Year’s Eve when people ask about my resolution, I say, “God help me not to be as stupid this year as I was last.” Then, “My wife is so impressed with my resolution she’s adopted it for herself. God help Gordon not be as stupid this year as last.” (now that’s self-deprecating humor).
  2. Your worst bet: Canned humor. Not saying some can’t be funny, it’s just that unless you’re a professional comedian, most aren’t. “I love it when people start their sentences with, let me tell you a funny story”, said no one ever.
  3. Your never, ever humor: Offensive, controversial, sensitive, religious, political, or racial humor. Here’s a good rule of thumb, if you even for a second think what you’re going to say is in one of those categories, it is.
  4. Your sometimes humor: Spontaneous. The best humor is often thoughts that come to you in the moment. I say sometimes because it depends on whether your filter is as quick as your thoughts – if it’s not, see #3 above. I was with a new supervisor at lunch with a client. The client was asking about some of the turnover on the team. Without thinking I said, “Yeah, Jim has driven off a lot of good talent in a short amount of time.” Once it left my mouth I turned and looked at Jim. Fortunately for me, he saw the sarcastic humor in it. He could have just as easily not, and I would have joined the turnover crowd.

You may be saying, “I was born without a humor bone in my body.” And that’s possible. But you can smile, laugh at other people’s jokes (even if they’re not funny), and make an attempt to make fun of your shortcomings when appropriate.

Here’s one thing that’s never funny, losing sales and guests because you didn’t build a deeper bond using humor.

(Thanks to the book Win Every Argument by Mehdi Hasan for the humorous inspiration for this article).

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