Laughter is the Best Medicine

“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
~Mark Twain

If you are in a Leadership role, giving a presentation, or talking in front of a group, then you know how hard it can be at times to get your ideas across. Winning over your audience can be tough, especially if you don’t first establish some kind of rapport. You need to get them on track with you in order for them to hear your most salient points.

LaughThe good news is that there’s one trick that will almost always help make your job a whole lot easier. Use humor! From kings to pawns, everyone loves to laugh, take time out, and find relief from our all too serious world.

See what a new study by Bell Leadership Institute says about humor:

A new study by the Bell Leadership Institute in Chapel Hill, NC, found that when employees are asked to describe the strengths and weaknesses of senior colleagues in their organizations, “sense of humor” and “work ethic” are mentioned twice as much as any other phrases. Bell Leadership surveyed approximately 2,700 employees in a variety of workplace settings over a two-year period.

“Humor is a vital tool of leadership,” says Dr. Gerald D. Bell, the founder and CEO of Bell Leadership Institute. “People are used to associating laughter with the best medicine, but they are often surprised that ‘sense of humor’ is the phrase most frequently associated with the best in leaders.” Bell Leadership’s findings show that people appreciate leaders who have fun and work hard to get the job done. “Those who can combine a strong work ethic and sense of humor may have the leading edge in their organizations,” says Dr. Bell.

Humor serves as an effective tool for putting your clients, colleagues, listeners or readers at ease. It can break the ice and set a tone that helps loosen up the atmosphere. Humor makes your job easier and much more fun to do.

What is humor?

The topic of humor is highly subjective. One must be cautious about what they say or do so as not to be offensive to others in any way. The great news is it’s not expensive or time-consuming to put a laughter in the workplace. Share a funny story with your co-workers on your break, hold a joke contest, or if you have a great idea, pass it along to your supervisor. Employees who are happy and fulfilled are also more productive and motivated.

Even though the essence of humor itself is subjective, there is one definition that transcends every comedic law. Humor is the amusing build­up and release of tension.

Whether it’s in print, in media, or in a live setting, humor requires some degree of tension in order to be effective. This is why it’s such a great ice breaker in professional settings – the tension is already built in.

It’s also why people laugh when they’re uncomfortable or nervous. It’s the reason for gallows humor, and it even explains why some wakes are so full of laughter. When it’s applied in the right way, humor can be the perfect antidote for dark times.

How Can You Be Funny When You Mean Business?

Humor’s effect will always ride the emotional tide of your audience. Stay attuned to how your audience is feeling, and always assess the atmosphere you’re in to determine whether humor is a good choice.

How well you come across may depend on whose company you are in, where you find them in their work day, and how many pressures are distracting them. Other factors include the temperature of the room you’re in, their state of alertness, and even whether they have a headache or any number of other distractions.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to your humor’s effectiveness in persuading someone. Recognize that what may be funny to one person one day will not be funny the next, even if it’s the exact same joke told in the exact same way.

Often the mood or situation itself will make it obvious whether humor is appropriate. If you’re speaking in a religious setting, a certain amount of reverence and sobriety are naturally called for. But even here, some kinds of humor can help move your audience to your point of view.

Here are a few tips for using humor effectively:

Don’t Tell Jokes: The object of your humor is to break the ice. Because humor is so subjective, your well-­meaning joke may be funny to a few people but offend others. Even worse, it may bomb. Telling one bad joke at the start means you’ll spend the rest of the time trying to recover instead of compelling your audience.

Use Stories: Different types of humor work best in different situations. Bridge the gap with a funny story or anecdote from real life. Use the story to make a point, and let it launch you into your topic.

Let Your Humor Breathe: Sometimes you may find that you’re funny even when you didn’t mean to be. Allow your audience a moment to enjoy it. When laughs come, pause and let the roar start to fade like a passing train. Then start speaking again before the quiet fully returns.

Keep It Kind: If the object of your humor is someone else, make sure your audience is laughing WITH them and not AT them. Mean spirited humor can leave a lasting scar on your reputation.

It’s Okay to Make Fun of Yourself: A touch of self­-effacing humor can win over your audience if it’s gently applied. Don’t be afraid to be the butt of good humor. A dash of vulnerability can make you seem like a more sympathetic character. Remember, a little goes a long way.

Your own brand of humor can be an original, effective way of delivering important messages to your clients and colleagues. You’ll build stronger bonds with them and stand out from the crowd.

Bryan Edired 1Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success. He works with bestselling authors such as Zig Ziglar, Donald Trump and John C. Maxwell in the role of publisher, rainmaker and marketer. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book on converting website visitors into paying customers. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes working for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.