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How to Tell a Funny Joke

How to Tell a Funny Joke

“The human race has only one effective weapon, and that is laughter.” -Mark Twain

If you want to impress somebody, make them laugh. If you want to connect with someone new, make them laugh. If you want to get a raise from your boss, make him laugh. If you want to take yourself out of a completely miserable situation, make yourself laugh. And if you want to change the world, make the world laugh. What’s the easiest way to make someone laugh? Tell a joke.

Some people are good at telling jokes, but have no idea how the jokes come out of their mouths. These people are naturally funny. But if you are not one of these people or have always had a problem with being funny, don’t sweat. Understand that all jokes have a formula behind them that makes them funny; otherwise, it’s not funny and that’s not a joke. Here are the ingredients to tell a joke. I’ll walk you through it step-by-step.

The Anatomy of a Joke and Its Formula

1. Target. Every joke begins with a target, and it can be targeting anything – people, places, ideas, etc. The most important thing to remember here is to relate the target to the person or people you’re telling the joke to, so they won’t be offended. For example, if you were telling a joke to your friends about your wife, you’re friends are going to laugh with you because they can relate. But if you were to tell that same joke to your wife, she’s not going to crack a smile. She’ll just slowly stare you down while you slowly tiptoe out of the room.

2. Hostility. I know some people are going to cringe at this, but the truth is jokes aren’t always “nice”. The essence of a joke is usually going against an idea or a type of person, but because the joke is funny (if you can pull it off the right way), it usually loosens the tension and eradicates all hostile feelings at the end. If you don’t get this, ask yourself if you have ever heard of a joke that was between two perfectly happy people? Take a look at these examples and see if you can pinpoint the target and who the joke is making fun of.

  • “Artificial hearts are nothing new. Politicians have had them for years.” -Mack McGinnis
  • “My wife said that her wildest sexual fantasy would be if I got my own apartment. -Rodney Dangerfield

3. Realism. Jokes aren’t funny unless there is some truth in them. You can’t just go in and start telling something ridiculous because first of all, the audience won’t be able to relate to it and secondly, you won’t get a chance to surprise them. Humor is a paradox. It’s funny because you’re juxtaposing the reasonable next to the unreasonable. If you don’t understand this, just remember that the more you can start a joke in a serious, casual way, the higher the payoff will be towards the end. For example, imagine if somebody with a straight face walked up to you and said:

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  • “If you think the world is normal, why do hot dogs come in packages of ten and hot dog buns come in packages of eight?”

4. Exaggeration. If you have a realistic setup from the previous step, then the next step is to exaggerate the second part of the joke. You want to make it “just a little bit more” out there than what human beings expect. The more you can exaggerate it but not completely ruin it by not saying something that’s completely unrelated or random at the end, the funnier it will be. In essence, could you exaggerate the joke as far as you can and yet make it still believable at the same time?

  • “You know, it was pretty hot yesterday. I saw a dog chasing after a cat, and they were both walking.”

5. Emotion. Why do human beings laugh? Biologically speaking, it is because there is a release in our emotions. That’s why this step is so crucial. For any joke to be hilarious –
I mean out-of-this-room hilarious – you to learn how build up anticipation. You want to person or group of people you’re telling the joke to feel like what’s coming next? You want to keep them guessing, on their toes, biting their nails, and leaning over their seat waiting for an answer that they will expect to hear. Here are some ways to create anticipation.

  • The Pause

“Take my wife – please!” -Henny Youngman

  • The Question

“Okay class. Calm down. Who wants to hear the latest dope?”

(Class cheers)

“Well, well, well… Here I am.”

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6. Surprise. Alright so we’ve come to the last step of the joke and perhaps the most vital one and that is the surprise. No surprise, no joke. When you go through steps 1 through 5, your audience or whoever you’re telling the joke to is going to expect something. So what do you do? Give them the unexpected. Imagine if a pitcher threw a ball and right before the batter hits it, it curves, and then flies out of the ball park. It’s sort of like that. The more anticipation and the greater the surprise, the funnier the joke, and the greater the laugh.

  • No Surprise

“He may not be able to sing, but he can act pretty well.”

  • Surprise

“He may not be able to sing, and he sure can’t dance either.”

So let’s review again.

Every joke begins with a target. The target can be anything from dogs and cats to lawyers or bosses. Just remember to cater the joke to the right audience. The joke is usually going to be hostile in some way, shape, or form. It’s going to make fun or someone or something, but usually the end result will not even make the joke seem hostile at all. And if you happen to find yourself to be in the position of where you are one of the nicest or kindest people on earth, like me, then you can always slim down the hostility. It’s okay.

After this, the joke needs to start off real – something that people can relate to and tell themselves that what you’re telling them about is real and there’s nothing to worry about. From there you can build up a story through anticipation or tension, and then give them an exaggerated response that has a surprise ending the blows them away. You choose how you want to go about doing this.

“A man and a woman who have never met before find themselves in the same sleeping carriage of a train. After the initial embarrassment, they both manage to get to sleep; the woman on the top bunk, the man on the lower.

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In the middle of the night the woman leans over and says, “I’m sorry to bother you but I’m awfully cold and I was wondering if you could possibly pass me another blanket.”

The man leans out, with a glint in his eye, says, “I’ve got a better idea… let’s pretend we’re married.”

“Why not?” giggles the woman.

“Good,” he replies, “Get your own blanket.”

Pass me another blanket.

Final Thoughts

I’m not even going to begin listing the positive traits that humor gives us which include relieving stress, living longer, feeling healthier, and feeling better about your day. If you can master telling a joke, people will like you and you’ll be able to make connections easily. If anything, life will be a lot less seriously and a lot more fun. Opportunities will come to you if you can be funny and people will be attracted to you as well. So now that I have given you the magical formula for being a jokester, do you have any jokes up your sleeve? Why not share one in the comment section below?

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“Laugh at yourself for a man is most comical when he takes himself too seriously.” -Og Mandino

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Hulbert Lee

Hulbert writes about motivation, doing whatever he can to help put people in a position to create a better life for themselves.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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