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Self Management

Did Ya Hear the One About...Using Humor to Survive

Will Rogers was once asked if he used a joke writer. "Writers?" he said, "Why would I need writers when I have the whole government working for me?" The ability to see the lighter side of a situation can help you smooth troubled waters, reduce your own stress and help others lighten up. Humor does not mean you have to tell jokes or be the class clown. Take your business and your tasks seriously but yourself lightly. Particularly now when there are some days when laughing is the only alternative to tears.

What it Does for Others

If yours is like most offices there is a real mix of people. No doubt, there is one person who can only be described as deadly serious. In fact there is a rapidly growing unofficial pool, that the next decade will arrive before anyone witnesses this person laugh. On the other hand you probably have a co-worker who can always be relied upon to approach a situation with a light touch. That might be through a story, a joke, or a skewed twist on a situation. In a tense meeting doesn't a quick laugh lighten the mood and help the group move beyond the tension? Having a sense of humor can boost cohesion between groups, reduce conflict, and humanize your image. Think of the last time you were standing in a slow moving checkout line. Didn't someone make a crack or a joke to his partner and in the resultant laughter, someone else felt comfortable enough to make a crack? A quick exchange can cheer all the listeners within earshot.

An ability to find and appreciate the humor in daily life is not synonymous with frivolousness. It is not an indication that you are less serious about your work than someone who rarely cracks a smile.

What it Does for You

Humor is a way to let people see how you view the world. Being able to laugh in the face of adversity shows a positive attitude. Poking fun at yourself can make you more approachable and can increase others trust and confidence in you. It increases your productivity by helping you reduce stress. Situations—whether that's being caught in a traffic jam, a breakdown of your printer, or a sudden onset of a problem—that can cause anger, actually offer you a choice. You make a decision about how you will respond to the challenges that spring up each day.

The ability to see the lighter side of business life can help you accomplish more. Being able to appreciate humor and humorous situations means you will increase your ability to command respect, build morale and create a more productive workplace.

Humor Cautions

Do not use humor that is directed at or against other people. What you may think of as an innocent joke could be quite offensive to the listener. Jokes and stories with highly sexual overtones, along with, of course, blatantly hostile or racial overtones are unacceptable.

Humor is not the best way to point out someone's mistakes. If you have a legitimate criticism, call the person aside in a private meeting and discuss your concerns.
Do not force yourself to tell jokes as your first foray into humor if you always forget the punch line and your timing leaves something to be desired. Your natural humor will be more effective if you just lighten up and try to see the ridiculous or silly side of things. In the meantime, did you hear the one about the traveling salesman…?

Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: odette@SmartWaysToWork.com. Visit us at: www.smartwaystowork.com call: 1-800-599-8463.

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