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Humor us: Or, exercising, meditating, and having sex all at the same time

Chief Human Resources Officer

Georgette Verdin | Chief Human Resources Officer

Are you craving laughter? Outright mirth and that unfettered sense of happiness? A certain quality of playful fun that you can share with trusted colleagues? Does it feel like humor is in short supply? Does it feel like it’s just now, under the pall of COVID-19, or has this forced COVID-19 lifestyle shed a light on the dearth of humor in our working lives?

Recently, Shankar Vedantam’s Hidden Brain podcast explored this topic in Humor Us, an interview with Dr. Jennifer Aaker, a behavioral scientist at Stanford University. It’s a great listen, especially if you are seeking a laugh!

Did you know that young children laugh 300 times a day – but the average 40-year-old might take two months to ring up that many giggles? Perhaps that’s because, as the podcast explained, many of us begin to lose our sense of humor starting at age 23 — and we don’t begin laughing with abandon again until we’re in our 70s!

Dr. Aaker unpacks a number of key concepts about humor in the workplace, why it’s healthy and how humor can be a powerful force for good in relationships, interpersonal dynamics and creativity.

The power of humor in the workplace

It’s no coincidence that just as people begin to enter the workforce, laughter goes out of our lives. People who display a sense of humor or happen to be funny in a professional setting are deemed unserious, or perhaps lacking confidence. But this is patently untrue.

Dr. Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. Secretary of State, showed the value of humor even in a high-stakes workplace setting with her sartorial selection at a moment of high tension. Famous for her decorative jeweled pins, she once wore an enormous bug pin to a meeting with the Russian ambassador after she discovered the Russians had been bugging the State Department. This allowed her to shift the dynamic in that meeting. Upon seeing the outsized pin on Dr. Albright’s lapel, the ambassador knew the jig was up. It changed the course of their discussion to one that was more constructive. Dr. Albright loves humor and used it strategically to create a more inclusive environment so that even antagonists might feel that they were on the same team.

Humor can create trust and unlock creativity

Using humor in a work setting can be a powerful way to unlock creativity and productivity.

A recent large-scale study the question asked: Would you rather trust your boss or a stranger – and 58% of the respondents picked a stranger. That trust gap is significant! In that same study, employees who rated their boss as having a sense of humor were 15% more satisfied and engaged. Humor allows us to interact in a way that cultivates more trust.

Humor inspires bonding

There’s an evolutionary underpinning relating to the risqué headline of this article. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out!

Humor is the antidote to arrogance and a means to educate

Humor helps get across key messages that are sticky, and it can help people capture more information and detail on difficult topics. Dr. Aaker uses an example from John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight,’ where the host uses humor to explain the complex science of gene editing. (You will not be able to unlearn his explanation for the acronym CRISPR after hearing this!)

Observations about your life can help you laugh

Calling on your daily experiences, writing the truth about it, and identifying a mis-directive of what’s going on is a terrific way to find laughter for yourself. You’ll hear the Jerry Seinfeld sketch on this podcast and will totally get it.

Humor is relatable

Humor makes us feel connected through understanding what people are feeling and naming it.

There is a fine quote at the end of the podcast, and one that I think will resonate for so many of us:

Where humor exists, love is not far behind.

Once we feel affection for others, we can relax, dial back into our inner funny selves and share and connect in ways that we may now find missing.