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Last Updated on June 12, 2019

Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

Humor and laughter provide so many rewards. Studies have shown 20 seconds of laughter yield the same benefits as 3 minutes of hard rowing. A Robert Half International study reported 84% of executives believe a worker with a good sense of humor does a better job. Incorporating humor more effectively in the workplace allows you to defuse difficult situations, reduce stress, create attention for new ideas, build rapport, and be a more approachable and memorable leader.

With those benefits, it behooves you to hone your workplace comedic skills. So in the tradition of David Letterman, here are the top 10 ways to more effectively lead with humor!

#10. Look for Joy in Life

An important step is continually looking for joy throughout your life. This happens in a variety of ways:

  • Focus less on yourself and more on helping others. Need help? Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the classic by Dale Carnegie.
  • Laugh more – kids reportedly laugh 400 times per day vs. 15 times for adults. Aim for laughing 40 times daily to be at least 10% of your former self!
  • Regularly read humorous comic strips and look for quips and funny comments in your reading.
  • Even in challenging situations, hunt for something funny or humorous you can take away.

#9. Learn What Makes You Laugh

If you’re trying to laugh 40 times daily, it’s important to know what makes you laugh and have ready access to laugh-provokers. Figure out 107 things which make you laugh. Unrealistic? Hardly! Why 107? Because 107 is funnier than 100! Here’s a recipe for listing what makes you laugh by simply identifying:

  • 13 Movies
  • 11 TV Shows
  • 5 Words or Phrases
  • 19 Personal Stories
  • 5 Cartoons
  • 7 Audio or Video Pieces
  • 11 Comedians
  • 7 TV Personalities
  • 7 Funny Photos
  • 7 People You Know
  • 15 of Anything Else
  • TOTAL = 107 Funny Things

Collect & save these humor starters in a “Smile File” when you quickly need a laugh or comedic inspiration.

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#8. Use Your Own Comedic Material

Personal experiences are the most genuine humor sources for effective leadership. Look for humor in situations from your own life:

  • Funny things you have said or others have said to you
  • Pratfalls, be they mental, interpersonal, & physical
  • Embarrassing moments or unexpected happenings
  • Times of change or learning
  • Difficult life events (yes, even these can be humor sources)

When turning personal situations into comedic material, remember lessons learned from a childhood humor staple: Knock-Knock Jokes. These simple jokes work because the knock-knock structure highlights familiar situations, uses only essential words and phrases, and clearly signals a laughing opportunity. They also demonstrate how humor springs from surprise. The laughs come from not knowing who or what exactly is behind the door based on the initial response to “Who’s there?”

#7. Adapt Somebody Else’s Material

Beyond your own experiences, there’s a tradition of “borrowing & adapting” (I didn’t say stealing) funny stuff from others. That’s why old-time comedian Milton Berle was called the “Thief of Bad Gags.”

Part of borrowing successfully is using easily accessible humor sources in ways many don’t consider. Beyond simply Googling “funny” in front of quotes, one-liners, definitions, pictures, or videos, here are two other common sources you can adapt:

  • Cartoons – You can use cartoons in various ways by showing one in a presentation, telling the cartoon’s story (potentially making yourself a character) without any images, or using its punch line as a starting point for new humor.
  • Comedians – Mainstream comedians’ jokes or catch phrases are another source to modify and adapt to your personality or work situation. Watch lots of comedians and learn how professionals do it so well.

#6. Understand Your Audience

Using humor in a leadership position requires understanding boundaries on its proper use. It all starts with really understanding your audience by:

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  • Paying attention to top management’s attitudes toward humor.
  • Knowing the audience’s composition – this directly affects which humor types are appropriate.
  • Loving your audience as much or more than you poke fun at them.
  • Inviting others into humor since you can’t assume they share your same humor sensibilities.

In case you’re contemplating using ad lib humor, completely knowing your audience is even more vital. Ad-libs have the potential for going horribly wrong because audience sensibilities have been misjudged. It’s very beneficial to actually plan and rehearse ad libs. It may sound odd, but identify common work situations you encounter and think through what usually goes wrong or provides a source for potential humor. Work out some “safe” funny comebacks to use as “planned” ad libs.

#5. Know the Rules and Boundaries

There are blatant humor no-no’s in the workplace which are quite acceptable for an onstage comedian. At work, avoid harmful practical jokes or pranks, heavily sarcastic comments, and humor rooted in religious, sexual, ethnic, or racial themes. Think you know your work setting well enough to tread on this dangerous ground? Here’s some advice: DON’T. The way questionable humor will be perceived by a workplace audience is too much of an unknown to take big risks when your career is at stake.

Use this checkpoint to actually see if your intended workplace humor is SAFE. To pass the SAFE test, all of these statements need to be true regarding your joke, comment, or image:

  • I can Say/Show this to my mother.
  • It wouldn’t Anger me if I were the butt of the joke.
  • This wouldn’t trigger an FCC violation
  • Everyone in the audience will be able to get it.

With even a hint of one false answer, dramatically modify your idea or better yet, abandon it and start over.

#4. Get over Yourself

Effective leaders don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re comfortable laughing at themselves and letting others be funny as well. Leaders should become adept at appropriately using self-deprecating humor, i.e., self-directed humor downplaying your own talents, stature, or accomplishments

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You don’t want to use self-deprecating humor on simply any topic, however. It’s most effectively & appropriately used in:

  • Situations where you’re comfortable & self-confident
  • Areas where your credibility & competence are clearly established
  • Ways that fit your known personality & sensibilities

Remember – when trying to borrow someone else’s self-deprecating humor, you need to share that person’s perspective & situation. If not, it’s simply deprecating! I once heard a decidedly non-technical Marketing VP call out “data geeks” in the audience. While that’s what they called themselves, she wasn’t a part of their group, and her comment, intended to build affiliation, fell completely flat.

#3. Need Humor Ideas? Just Look Around

The workplace is filled with situations lending themselves to comedy. Humor springs from exaggeration, wordplay, misunderstandings, ambiguity, contradictions, paradoxes, pain, and inconsistencies. If you work in any type of business or organizational setting, there are plenty of these situations to go around!

As a leader, it’s your role to use the proper opptunities to encourage and employ humor successfully by ensuring that:

  • Your humor makes others feel good about themselves.
  • Hurtful fun isn’t made of those less tenured than you in the organization.
  • You don’t use humor when agitated since it can lead to apparent meanness.

#2. Surround Yourself with Joy

If you’re looking for more joy and levity in leadership, surround yourself with joyful people. These are people who are funny, easily spur laughter, and routinely cheer people up through their presence.

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Cultivate relationships with these types of people. Spend time with them, learn from their successful uses of humor, and emulate elements of their approaches that work for you.

Beyond basking in the joy these people create, select 3 or 4 of them to be an informal comedy team. As your comedy team, solicit their opinions to help you generate and refine humor ideas. They can also provide perspectives on potentially questionable humor material that makes it through the SAFE test, but still feels like it might not be right for a workplace audience.

#1. Dive into the Fun

Ultimately, the most important part of successfully using humor as a leader is actually sharing it in the workplace. Here are a few final tips to keep in mind:

  • Practice your humor in appropriate, low-risk settings to find out what works before trying it out with a bigger audience.
  • Signal a laughing opportunity through your words, actions, and tone. It’s also a good practice to give people “permission” to laugh in the workplace.
  • Finally, be earnest in using humor; don’t focus on laughs so much as lightening and adding fun into work settings.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on June 21, 2019

How to Deal with Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

How to Deal with Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time. It’s a natural part of our emotions. And expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone.

That being said, too much anger is counterproductive. Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and at work. Inappropriate in this context can be too much anger, too often, or a times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger: Unhealthy vs Healthy Ways

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your spouse or significant other, kids, bosses, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information, we just have to be willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

3 Common Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here’re some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. Not very productive but extremely common.

Poorly Timed

This is something I’ve been guilty of. I tend to be pretty open and out there with my emotions. As such, I’ve been known to express my anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

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An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

As a matter of fact, over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time and it’s a no-win situation.

3 Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways to adapt? Some healthy ways to express anger in our relationships include:

Being Honest

Expressing your anger or disagreement in an honest fashion. By this, I mean be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond. But that’s okay because you want to be honest.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else. And don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

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Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How To Deal With Anger

So if you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slowdown

Maybe this has happened to you as well. From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response. And that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner.

2. Keep It to the “I’s”

As in it’s you that is upset. You are upset because of something. Don’t accuse people of making you upset. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “You always want to upset me because you don’t put away your dishes”. Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me – can you work with me to come to a solution?”.

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

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3. Workout

I have definitely used this technique when I have been upset. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from an expert if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.

If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable, and healthy level.

How To Control Your Emotions

Having out of control emotions other than anger can lead to similar challenges in our lives. If you find yourself with emotional overflow here’s some ideas to help get your emotions under control.

Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation. That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax like being around people we enjoy. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and exercise.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and balance their emotions. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax.

Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep emotions in check and things in a healthy perspective.

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Remember, life isn’t a race. It’s a journey meant to be enjoyed fully along the way. Make sure you take time out to laugh and have fun.

Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing and brings a smile to your face.

Be Grateful

I was just having this conversation with one of my daughters who was stressed about school. We talked about the importance of being grateful for the many things in our lives that we seem to take for granted.

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring us smiles and joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life — the things that we seem to forget easily yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions. You’ll be glad you did.

More Resources About Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Patrick Fore via unsplash.com

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