At Home with Humor at Work
by Raju Mandhyan

Depression, low self-esteem and bitterness are the biggest catalysts and sometimes even the main causes of several prevalent ailments and diseases. These three psychological problems originate from ego, pride and the inability to take oneself lightly. What we haven't come to terms with is that most often than not is that life is unpredictable; humanity frail and all that we do and achieve pales in comparison to nature and creation itself. If we could come to terms with this fact then taking ourselves lightly would be a cinch. Stress, anxiety and bitterness would all be less harmful and debilitating than they are now. The key to taking ourselves lightly, and in general saying a loud yes to life, is having the ability to practice humor.

Humor is an indulgence in humility; it is an outward, physical expression of happiness. Humor is also acceptance and openness to life through playfulness. Research reveals that humor at work and at home stimulates creativity, enriches communication, develops trust, eases problems and builds relationships. Effective leaders, throughout history, have consciously or unconsciously depended on the unspoken powers of humor. They have used humor to convert negativism to positivism and create a sense of fulfillment and hope amongst their followers.

In individuals, humor is visible through open talk, warm tones, easy banter, smiles, giggles, chuckles and the best amongst them all-laughter. Laughter is the manifestation of humor in all its glory and richness. If humor is the mind then laughter is its body. If humor is the situation then laugher is the action. Laughter is visible in a person when his face cracks up, his ribs convulse, his belly turns and air explodes out of his lungs repeatedly in an aerobic fashion. This action has the same benefits of a healthy workout in a shorter, quicker and a happier form.

Laughter also supports and nourishes the open-loop nature of man. Daniel Goleman, in his book, Primal Leadership, describes the open-loop as "interpersonal limbic regulation," whereby one person transmits signals that can alter hormone levels, cardiovascular function inside the body of another. That's how couples in love are able to trigger one another's brain surges of oxytocin, which creates a pleasant, affectionate feeling. But in all aspects of social life, not just love relationships, our physiologies intermingle, our emotions automatically shifting into the register of the person we're with. The open loop-design of the limbic system means that other people can change our very physiology - and so our emotions."

And he further continues in the same book, "Laughter in particular, demonstrates the power of the open loop in operation - and therefore the contagious nature of all emotions. Hearing laughter, we automatically smile or laugh too, creating a spontaneous chain reaction that seeps through a group. Glee spreads so readily because our brain includes open-loop circuits designed specifically for detecting smiles and laughter that make a laugh in response. The result is a positive emotional hijack."

The question that arises now is, is the ability to practice inborn or can it be learned? Are some people natural humorists or is it an acquired art? The answer is that it is part nature and part nurture. It is a gift that we all have but that which needs to be released and nurtured.

Some ways to practice humor, in individuals, can be done through:

  • Developing a sense of humility and acceptance.
  • Developing an ability to look at the 3rd side of a coin and then exaggerating or belittling it.
  • Practicing the skill of derailing patterned thinking with puns, similes and metaphors in communication.
  • Practicing the skill of spinning yarns in an animated fashion and relating them to real life.
  • Acquiring and building up a repertoire of non-offensive jokes and one-liners that can be morphed to needs and situations.

Some ways to create an atmosphere for humor and laughter, in groups, can be done as follows:

  • Have days at work when people can dress up for fun. This dressing need not be totally visible. It could be a pair of funny socks, a strange ornament or a hankerchief that is colorful.
  • Have candid camera days when people are caught in a humbling moment. These snap-flicks can then be shown, with permission from the victim, to the group later.
  • Create an office décor that is colorful, stimulating and sometimes, downright playful.
  • Challenge the right brain of individuals in meetings by insisting on "show and tell" or "tell us a story" kind of discussions.
  • Allow family days where people can bring in pictures of their babies and talk about the fun of parenting.

All these and a zillion more methods can be practiced to inculcate the habit of looking at the lighter side of things.

Caution, though, must be taken during these practices where timing, political correctness and cultural sensitivities are concerned. Humor is not just jokes, pranks, playfulness, wit or ridicule but it greatly depends on them, care should be taken to make it all benign. It is also best targeted towards yourself rather than others. The timing of humor is also extremely critical - the same joke, at different times, can kill or give life.

In summary, for individuals, humor and laughter are a deterrent to stress and anxiety therefore a supplement in a fight against depression, low self-esteem and bitterness. In corporations and groups, humor and laughter enhance creativity, team-manship and, therefore overall productivity.


Author of "The Heart of Public Speaking", Raju Mandhyan has fifteen years of exposure to manufacturing, sales, marketing and international trade; seven years as an independent coach, consultant and trainer. His talent rests not in telling you things that are right and useful, but guiding you through your own thoughts and helping you find truths and applications for the 21st century corporate world. Visit http://www.mandhyan.com/ for additional information.

Many more articles in Motivation & Retention in The CEO Refresher Archives

   


Copyright 2005 by Raju Mandhyan. All rights reserved.

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