Over the last years, a great amount of scientific research has been exploring and dissecting sense of humor and how to harness its powerful effects upon people. It has been proved that humor and laughing enhance students’ learning outcomes and workers' performance. If a teacher or a team leader has a good sense of humor, most people around them feel more motivated, interested, less anxious, safe to ask questions, and share creative ideas.
Making people laugh or find things funny creates feelings of safety and levity for them when around you. And this “not to take everything so seriously” strategy is what makes humorous people so creative and bright. It's not that they aren't serious about their work or studies, it's just that they know how to see things through a pair of less-pressure-and-anxiety goggles.
Is being humorous a soft skill?
A lot of people can say that being humorous is an inborn skill that can't be taught or learnt, but leadership and learning researchers and successful leaders think otherwise. According to recent surveys, sense of humor is actually a character of strength, a very valuable soft skill. At the workplace, when a team is in a pickle, a leader is expected to be able to deal with it in a humorous way, resulting in reduced stress, enhanced intimacy, and an overall feeling of satisfaction. And as it's expected that leaders have this skill, it means that it can also be trained and improved.
The ways of working on your humor are personal, but it involves other soft skills, such as critical thinking and communication. First of all, you need to know what the object of humor is and how to use it. That is: knowing the humor intensity you can use and how far you can take it in your current setting. For instance, the humor made in a meeting room should never be equal to one made in a wedding or party with close friends.
Secondly, know your audience. Your humor should be based on the listener's preferences and understandings. If you and your team are having a meeting to talk about the launch of a new product, for example, you can try to be humorous and make little remarks about how they should work and get things done, making intelligent and funny comparisons with movies and celebrities they know.
Lastly, watch out for any racist, sexist, or prejudiced commentary. There’s a threshold between intelligent humor and demeaning. You should never use oppressive systems to weave jokesAlso, don't make remarks that are disparaging, as they can, and will, induce discrimination against targeted groups. A joke is only a joke when it's not using other people as the object of the joke and it's not trivializing the mistreatment of historically oppressed groups.
A good–or awful–example of inappropriate joke is to correlate asians with the COVID-19 pandemic, which further contributes to higher crime rates and asian hate.
So… should you be humorous?
After this reading, think: do people like to be around you, even when you are going through unpleasant or rough situations? Do you bring levity to their lives? Do they feel safe to say the first thing that comes to their mind to you?
If the answer isn’t a YES! you may not be a humorous person and you also may be losing a lot of opportunities to really connect with other people and thrive in your professional life. I always try to be humorous. Although I’m not funny, I try my best to be in a good mood, open to jokes and funny situations. Of course there are some days when everything is blue and nothing is funny, but I try not to give in.
It may seem like a cliche catchphrase, but a good mood really changes the way you deal with life. Just like Dr. Seuss once said:
“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere”
You just need to find them!