Did you ever walk in a room and forget why you walked in? I think that’s how dogs spend their lives.
– Sue Murphy
Forty years ago Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, had been given six months to live. He’d been diagnosed with a painful, degenerative disease of the spine. Although Cousins was in constant agony and succumbing to paralysis, he checked himself out of the hospital (which he deemed “no place for sick people”) and moved into a hotel.
He began taking high doses of Vitamin C and prescribing himself a regular regimen of intense laughter. Watching Marx brothers videos and stacks of his favorite funny movies, he laughed and laughed every day. He discovered that the periods immediately following intense laughter had the strongest effect in easing his pain, and calming his mind.
He recovered from his illness and went on to write several books on the healing power of laughter.
Even though constant disruptive laughter is the bane of every elementary teacher, the benefits of laughter are now well known. It wasn’t always that way. In the mid-18th century, Lord Chesterfield, a public advisor on morality, proclaimed: “In my mind there is nothing so ill-bred as audible laughter.” In 1903, psychologist William McDougall wrote that situations which incite laughter are essentially unpleasant.
But we now know that laughter increases blood flow, reduces stress, decreases risk of heart attacks, and boosts your immune system. Even the insurance giant AIG ran TV ads proclaiming that laughing will add eight years to your life. And that information comes from their actuaries, who should know.
If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’
– Dave Barry
In the workplace, fun environments rank higher in terms of reasons to stay with a job than money, gifts, and even recognition.
If you are a boss, or have a boss (which is everyone) who have the power to lead by example and set the workplace tone, you should know the killer advantages of creating a fun workplace:
Humor Builds Trust
Humor breaks through false pretenses, helps eliminates communication barriers, and creates an environment in which people feel more authentic and expressive in their ideas. The reason is that humor builds trust. In one study, people who measured high in terms of how often they initiated humor, and appreciated humor in social settings, were considered more trustworthy.
Humor Strengthens Leadership
Bosses who use humor as part of their leadership style are not only proven to build more cohesive teams, they are also perceived as better leaders and managers. Team members also report to their colleagues greater work satisfaction and higher approval ratings of managers who use humor in their interactions.
Humor Enhances Creative Thinking
Quite a few studies have demonstrated that laughter and humor not only enhances creative thinking by reducing the fear of expressing ideas publicly, but even improves memory and retention. If you want a more productive meeting, start with a joke. Not the teasing or ridiculing kind, but what researchers call “Affiliative Humor.” It’s the kind of joke that is non-threatening to any single member of the group, but instead works to demonstrate we are all coping together.
A final word of advice: There is a wrong kind of humor – a kind of humor that is divisive and destructive. It’s the kind of humor that is intentionally demeaning, derogatory, or rude.
For humor to have a positive, and powerful effect in our work, it needs to be inclusive, and remind the group of who we are, what we are doing, and how we do things.
Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.
– Darynda Jones.