Humor is a leadership competency, but many people in leadership positions are unskilled at it. They may be too serious, have problems telling a joke, don’t know how to use humor appropriately, or maybe just appear humorless. Those who are skilled at using humor tend to have a good sense of humor, can laugh at themselves and with others, and use humor appropriately to ease tensions.
Leaders who learn not to take themselves too seriously and who use humor and humility are typically well balanced and self-confident. It keeps their ego in check and their feet on the ground.
Humor is an essential element of life and work. If we use it properly, it can defuse tension in a crisis. But there is a time and place for everything, and humor at the expense of others is inappropriate and harmful in the work environment.
There are many types of humor available to us. There is good humor and negative humor, constructive humor and destructive humor. We all know people who are humorous and we have, no doubt, heard humorous stories that are used to make a point.
We can learn to find humor in everyday situations; it’s not simply about telling jokes. Humorous events in our everyday lives are a good source of stories. Think about a ridiculous situation you have experienced, funny kids, pets or hobbies. Then there is always the news or simply looking for humor around you.
It’s important to keep humor in good taste. People are turned off by political, sexist, ethnic, and religious humor. It’s also important to avoid race, gender, and culture when trying to be humorous. Don’t make fun of others or make them feel or look bad.
Self-deprecating humor—poking fun at yourself—is usually safe and can lead to increased respect. Funny or embarrassing things that happened to you, your flaws, or mistakes you’ve made can add humor to a situation. It also makes you more human and endearing.
Never use humor as a shield or a defense technique, and choose the right time for using humor. Sometimes it’s best to follow the lead of others, not being the first to use humor but being second or third until you find your funny bone. Until you get good or natural at it, you can improve your results by using a little exaggeration, being brief, and omitting unnecessary words.
Humor can be motivating. Not all leaders are the nicest people you would want to work for, but if they help you accomplish what you want, and have fun doing it, then it has been a far better place than if humor was absent.
To get better at humor, study the pros. Read How to Be Funny by Jon Macks and Laughing Matters by Joel Goodman. You can also go to comedy performances and observe how the professionals do it.
Humor is common in many forms of communication. It creates an open atmosphere by awakening positive emotions that enhance listening, understanding, and acceptance of messages.
To quote Bill Cosby, “You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.”
Until next month, laugh a little.