Leading with Humor

Humor plays a serious role in your communication with other people.  Humor can be used to make a point or to diffuse a situation.  When used about yourself, humor demonstrates your humility and can sometimes disarm a difficult situation.  Before we discuss using humor, it is important to understand that humor in a business setting is not telling jokes—unless there is a business point being made.  Humor is not mean-spirited.  It is not making fun of a person or group, and it is not schoolyard use of forbidden words.  Humor is a powerful tool that aids communication and fosters understanding.

Primary rule: Use humor about situations and not people unless the person is you.

The types of humor that may work well in a business setting include anecdotes, situational humor, animal stories that serve as training metaphors, and acknowledgment of absurdities or contradictions in practice.  According to Professor Jeffery Goldstein of Temple University, “people, who use more humor, tend to wield more influence over group decisions.  Good, effective leaders combine communications and persuasion skills with an appropriate touch of humor to get their message across and to win support for their ideas.”

If you do not find yourself laughable, others will.


Also See

This talk was given at a TEDx event, in this talk Andrew Tarvin talks about how he brought humor to the workplace while he worked at Procter & Gamble. After being complimented by co-workers on how humor helped them enjoy their work, Andrew decided to start becoming a humor engineer–using humor to help people become more efficient and effective in the workplace.


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