I'm a big, BIG fan of humor. Not only does it have the ability to keep conversations fun and upbeat, but it also has the ability to cultivate relationships in a unique way, unmatched by any other soft skill. Another upside: it forces you to NOT take yourself too seriously.
Because who wants to be around a perpetual Sponge Bob Serious Pants?
In terms of personal relationships, namely romantic, women almost always list "sense of humor" or "sense of fun" at the top. So what is it about this humor thing that gets us going, and how can we harness its magical power in our professional lives, just as we would in pursuit of a fulfilling personal life?
To get to the nitty-gritty of comedy and how we can apply it to everyday business practices, I tapped my good friend, funny gal, and CEO/founder of Comediva, Erika Cervantes.
Below are her suggestions for five easy ways to harness humor to enhance otherwise ho-hum activities:
1. Make Lists
- Everyone loves lists.
- This is a fact.
- And the Internet loves them.
- For example:
Due to a recent outbreak of Comic Sans, we are instating a new policy. Here is a list of approved intra-office memo fonts:
3) Never, ever Papyrus (this is not Avatar, and we aren't a Trader Joe's product).
Love, Everyone's Favorite Manager
But in all seriousness team, we really DO only want you to use Helvetica and Calibri. There is a reason, but I will spare you from the details.
Thanks as always for your hard work!
2. Say Yes, and...
Improvisational comedy (improv) is all about finding the funny in the moment. The basic tenets of improv--which are really just great communication skills--involve saying yes, listening, and thinking on your feet. Imagine a business world where you say yes to an idea, and build upon it, rather than shoot it down. Next time you're planning one of those warm-and-fuzzy team-building events, think about making it an improv class. After all, what could be funnier than watching all your co-workers play keepaway with an imaginary ball?
3. Make the First Joke
To be honest, jokes (especially bad ones) can really slow down meetings. But placed wisely, jokes can be a great way to diffuse tension, communicate feedback, and skate through awkward moments.
Imagine you're watching a boring industry panel. Three or four panelists sit awkwardly at the front of a room, passing along a microphone, introducing themselves with their standard spiels. Your eyes are already glazing over.
But suddenly, the third person down the panel line cracks a joke when she introduces herself. Maybe it's about how the microphone smells like spit. Laughter erupts from the crowd. For the remaining 40 minutes, all eyes are on her--the audience wants to hear her opinion, her insights.
Remember: If you control the laughter, you control the room.
4. Standup and Conquer
If you've ever seen a standup comedy show, you know that most comedians are nutso; they have to be, to get up onstage and welcome criticism, ridicule, and utter public humiliation.
In business, every presentation or public speaking engagement holds potential for a scarring public meltdown. Most people fear public speaking more than death, because whenever our ancestors stood in front of a large group of people, they were about to be stoned or sacrificed to the gods.
But if you can stand up, by yourself, in front of a group of people you don't know, with the sole purpose of making them laugh, and live to tell the tale--then you'll realize that you're not going to have your heart ripped out of your chest and presented to Huehueteotl, and you can do anything.
5. Get a Sidekick, or Be a Sidekick*
What do you if you're not funny? Like, really not funny. Well, there is a simple fix for this. Find the one guy or gal in your office who seems to have a knack for making people laugh and creepily observe them for a month or so. Get to know them, take them for coffee, and always, always, always laugh at their jokes. Before you know it, almost like magic osmosis, you will find yourself easing your way into the land of the funnies.
*It's really hard to be a sidekick if you're annoying. So try not to be annoying, especially during the observation phase. Just play it cool.
Well, there you have it. The world--particularly the business world--would be a much better place if it took itself just a little less seriously. So, next time you're thinking about emailing around a boring memo, or planning yet another team outing, think about the magic of humor, and enjoy the results of your newfound approach!