Humor is a way for people to interact in a playful manner; it enhances group identity and enforces social norms. Yet it can have the opposite affect- what makes one person laugh makes another person groan. What is funny to one person may be insulting to another.
Have you ever considered whether your humor helps or hinders your relationships? We’ve all probably lost a few points over the years by joking around at the wrong time or in the wrong way.
Before undertaking a humor in the workplace program, consider the different types of humor in your analysis…
In a Leadership program with Leadership and Diversity motivational speaker Debra Long and Arthur Grasser (1988) recorded a number of episodes of the Tonight Show and found the following Types of Humor (more exist but these are some of the main ones)
What type of humor do you use most?
Overstatement and Understatement- Changing the meaning of something by changing it with a different emphasis
Irony- The literal meaning is opposite to the intended meaning
Satire- Aggressive humor that pokes fun at social institutions, politicians or lawyers
Sarcasm and Put Downs- Aggressive humor that targets an individual
Self Deprecation- Humorous Remarks targeted at yourself. This may put the audience at ease or demonstrate modesty.
Puns- the Humorous use of a word that evokes a second meaning.
(i.e. - I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me)
A practical joke is a joke put into action. (i.e. - A bucket spilling when a door is opened)
Black Humor- Humor based on easily offensive subjects like making love, body parts, and bodily functions.
What type of humor are the following?
May I have a glass of water?
Why, are you thirsty?
No I want to see if my neck leaks.
I sold the memoirs of my sex life to a publisher. They are going to make a board game out of it (Woody Allen)
Did you hear about the new morning after pill for men?
It changes their blood type
What’s the difference between Windows Vista and a Virus?
A virus does something
How does a man show he’s planning for the future?
He buys two cases of beer instead of one
I decided that becoming a vegetarian was a missed steak.
I love being married. It's so great to find one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life
My Dad has a deep and abiding respect for human life…unless it gets in his way
I could have gone to Yale or Harvard
Had I been accepted
Excessive sarcasm used over and over in close relationships can have a very detrimental affect. Sarcasm is a put down, use it sparingly.
Before motivating people to use humor in the workplace understand that some humor is harmful and some is helpful
Things to Ponder…
Be aware over the next few days…. what type of humor do you use the most?
What type of humor does your spouse or colleagues use?
Does this humor help or hinder your relationship?
The Levity Affect
I first saw a funny motivational guest speaker talk about humor in the 90's he suggested we switch back and forth between serious and playful states of mind throughout the day ( Michael Apter, 1991). The humorous and playful state of mind is a heightened state of awareness where more oxygen is present in the brain.
Whenever we laugh at something we are experiencing an emotional high that is rooted in the biochemistry of our brains.
A playful state of mind activates the reward network in the limbic system in the brain (Mobbs, 2003). The same parts of the brain are activated when we do pleasurable things like eating, listening to music, sex…This neuro chemical cocktail has further effects on many parts of the body including the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, digestive and immune systems (Fry, 1994)
There is no better way to create a more carefree and flexible environment than through some shared levity.