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Are you having a giraffe? How to harness humour, your hidden superpower

If you could choose any super power, what would it be?

Invisibility?

Time travel?

Shapeshifting into a giraffe?

The ability to click your fingers and be sitting in a hot tub with a Tom Hardy lookalike, champagne in hand? (Maybe that’s just me!)

If I told you that you already have a super power, would you believe me?

Well, believe me, because you do! This super power gives you the ability to completely transform how you feel, how you think and how you show up in the world. It can improve your health, your relationships and your work performance… its impact is almost limitless.

It’s called humour, and it’s a real-life super power.

So, what is it about humour – and laughter specifically – that makes it so powerful? Laughing induces physical changes in your body, enhancing your intake of oxygen and increasing the release of endorphins in your brain.

It can stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can reduce the physical symptoms of stress.1 A study from Norway (involving more than 50,000 participants) found that people with a strong sense of humour lived longer than those who didn’t.2

Laughter is also biologically intertwined with trust.3 Oxytocin is the wonder molecule released during breastfeeding, hugging, giving your dosh away, petting your dog, and eating avocados. It’s also induced by laughter. Making someone laugh can help diffuse otherwise tense and awkward situations, helping to establish and build trust.3

Having a good sense of humour is also linked to high emotional and general intelligence.4 It’s thought that both cognitive and emotional abilities are required to produce and process humour.4 Albert Einstein even attributed his brilliant mind to having a child-like sense of humour!4

And if that wasn’t enough, humour can enhance your love life! Both men and women rate funny people as being more attractive than their less wisecrack-inclined counterparts.4 Soooooo that date with the Tom Hardy lookalike might be a possibility after all…

But before you start unleashing your inner Chandler Bing, take note: not all humour is created equal. In psychology, the term ‘positive humour style’ is used to describe people who use humour to enhance relationships and reduce conflict.4 This style of humour enhances self-esteem and equips you with an invaluable coping mechanism to help you better manage stress and anxiety.4 Negative humour styles such as sarcasm, ridicule and self-defeating humour do not hold the same benefits.4

While we all appreciate humour outside of our day jobs, it can also be a workplace super power. Work without fun, is just work!5 

Studies suggest that the more fun we have at work, the more productive we are and the less likely we are to suffer burn out.5 Research has shown that after watching a comedy clip, employees were 10% more productive than their counterparts who didn’t watch anything (let’s assume they were staring at a blank wall).1

Every chuckle, giggle and snort brings a host of business-boosting effects.1 Laughter relieves boredom, boosts engagement, enhances creativity, collaboration, precision and productivity!2 If you could bottle that and sell it, you would make a mint!

Humour, when harnessed well, can super-charge your leadership skills.5

Here are a few tips to help you cultivate humour (and its fantastic benefits) in your day job:5

  • Be yourself. The funniest people are known for their individual style.5
  • Practice it. Good humour can be learned.4 Have you thought about taking an improv class?
  • Move on from failed attempts. Your joke about the monkey that loves Doritos didn’t land? Don’t dwell on it, just forget it and move on.5 😊
  • Don’t force it. High-performance humour is more about trying to find the humour in normal day-to-day situations.5
  • Activities – can you use humour to stimulate creative thinking? Maybe come up with a silly problem-solving task for your team at your next meeting.3
  • Use patterns to develop humour organically e.g. remind people of past laughs by bringing it up at a later time5

Have fun having fun! 😊

References:

  1. https://hbr.org/2018/11/the-benefits-of-laughing-in-the-office Accessed April 2021.
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/oct/11/you-have-got-to-laugh-why-a-sense-of-humour-helps-in-dark-times Accessed April 2021.
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/04/10/using-laughter-to-build-trust-at-work/?sh=60a21edc43c9 Accessed April 2021.
  4. https://www.biznews.com/good-hope-project/2017/12/20/humour-high-emotional-intelligence Accessed April 2021.
  5. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/02/28/using-humor-to-build-a-high-performing-workplace/?sh=3c4321cd2fb7 April 2021.