I went to my first weekly meet of Toastmasters International yesterday. When the slot of prepared speeches started, I thought I’m going to doze off! 5 speakers lined up and that’s a lot to listen to. But not only was the host for the day funny but the speakers too kept the humour going. And the laughs made sure we were all awake through the talks. This was a welcome break because humour is really not something I expected in such generous amounts.
A sense of humour is highly under-rated. Cracking a joke is hardly ever listed as a job skill. And sure enough a limerick in the middle of an interview isn’t something you prepare for. But by the end of this post, I’m sure you’ll see how important humour can be and why you should learn to tickle funny bones.
Why is humour important?
Humour, in general, is a great thing. It boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress levels. Laughter – as a result of humour – releases natural painkillers in the body. Humour at work can not just makes things lively, it can also make you more popular and easier to work with. It boosts morale, builds trust and improves productivity.
Humour at the work place
Think of someone you’ve worked with and who had a great sense of humour. Not too many come to mind I reckon. Humour at the workplace is usually not encouraged. And it can be quite tricky too. Although humour isn’t about being facetious or putting someone down. Self-deprecating humour is fine once in a while. An intelligent wordplay or a fitting repartee could definitely enliven a dull and tedious meeting. Jokes coloured with racial undertones or gendered prejudice are an absolute no-no!
Humour can make your speeches more interesting. It can be a great tool to disarm people during conflict resolution and negotiations. A little humour in your sales pitch only serves to make you more likeable. It can energise people, break tension and sometimes, even put things in perspective.
How to find your funny bones?
The good news is research proves that you can improve your sense of humour. You don’t have to be born with it. Also, being funny isn’t about being able to come up with jokes in every situation. It is about being able to see the funny side of situations and being humourous about it.
Here are a few tips:
1. Look at the funny side of life around you: And this includes being able to laugh at yourself too. You can look at the lighter side of things when you lighten up yourself. Be positive, smile more and look at things afresh.
2. Timing and audience: Timing is everything in being funny. It’s more about your well-timed response than anything else. Too late and people may not even get it. Similarly, keeping the audience in mind is equally important. I know some jokes that work in my sessions in Mumbai don’t in a place like, say Kolhapur or Aurangabad where the lifestyle and social values are different. What works in our country may make no sense to someone from a different country. And this is a very important thing to remember.
3. Power of three: Comedians use the power of three to add that funny twist to their jokes. As the famous quote from Mark Twain goes -“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” The last word changes the way we perceive the thought and leads to the comic effect.
4. Allusions: I find that allusions can be quite effective when borrowed. But the biggest catch here is the audience. I tend to use a lot of allusions from the iconic American sitcom, F.R.I.E.N.D.S but then I take care not to assume my audience is familiar with the reference. But people who get it see the humour in it. Allusions from popular culture should work best. Topical and regional allusions are also a great way to go.
5. Don’t try to too hard: Chandler Bing isn’t exactly the right role model to follow because you know how that goes most times! Don’t try to force humour where none exists just because you have to be funny. You might cross limits or hurt feelings. And that will be even worse.
6. Practice: Go to laughter clubs to sharpen your humour. Watch comedy films and sitcoms to understand how humour is generated in situations. Try it out on friends and family. Learn a few jokes initially and tell it to everyone you come across. You’ll get better with every time you say it.
A sense of humour is an important soft skill which most of us overlook. I’m sure when we seek to see the lighter side of life, we will be able to titter about a lot of things!
This post is a part of A to Z blogging challenge where I am going to write about 26 soft skills in 26 days and give tips on how to improve on them. If you like these posts, do share them and tell your friends about it.