How to BE FUNNY – Hooray for FUNNY Business

by Dean Lindsay
Author of  The Progress Challenge and
Cracking the Networking CODE

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“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” — Victor Borge
Business today may not be a laughing matter, but laughter is needed more than ever.  To much negative change out there in this tough biz world.  Making someone laugh (with you, not at you) is definite progress.  Humor helps relieve stress and attracts and holds attention.  Many a person has walked away from a conversation out of sheer boredom.  Make them laugh and they will like you and be willing to help you.  Humor can help make a great progress-based impression because it appeals to a person’s need for pleasure and release.  Sound good?
Think I am just joking around?
Humor has been scientifically proven to relieve stress, motivate, and improve relationships.  The use of GOOD humor relaxes people; in that state, they become more open. A tense or uncomfortable person is far less able or willing to have a good discussion with you that leads to progress for both of you.
Common sense is a prerequisite for using humor successfully.  Avoid any attempt at political, sexual , or religious humor.  Refrain from making off -color or derogatory remarks about others.  Trying to get a chuckle at the expense of others shows a lack of professionalism , character, and good sense.
No jokes. Tell stories.
A joke is rarely original, memorable, or all that funny.  (Of all the jokes you’ve been told in your life, how many do you remember?)  They don’t help the person you are talking to get to know you. Jokes make you look like you are trying too hard. They are contrived.
Jokes force your audience into the uncomfortable position of having to smile or chuckle when they’re not amused.  They act more as a shield than anything.  Jokes are often risky because most are demeaning to some group of people. Stories are where it’s at.  They are genuine and offer a window into the real you.
You’re THE Joke
The highest form of humor is to laugh at yourself; the lowest form is to laugh at someone else. Tell personal stories where the lesson is learned, or the embarrassment is suffered at your own expense. It will make you appear more vulnerable, approachable, and human. Poke fun at yourself and folks will laugh with you, not at you.
Don’t be afraid of putting some egg on your own face early in the conversation. Self-deprecating humor is so effective that it is highly regarded as a leadership trait. It reflects confidence and strength. It shows that you are secure enough to laugh at yourself. It also creates instant rapport, defuses tension, and makes you more likable. Learn to laugh at what you do, without laughing at who you are.
Quick One Liner:
“I’m such a bad speller, my spell checker is stunned.”
Tell stories that gently poke fun at yourself. Doing this acts as a social lubricant and shows that you are comfortable in your own skin and at ease with life. It encourages your listener to feel the same way. As early twentieth -century poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote, “Laugh and the world laughs with you.”Rehearse your lines.  In meeting people, we each have certain situations that seem to come up again and again. You can anticipate these situations and be ready with witty, fresh, well -rehearsed, “spontaneous” comebacks.

“There are three things that are real – God, human folly, and laughter. The first two are beyond comprehension. So we must do what we can with the third.”
— John F. Kennedy
Humor takes intelligence and subtle qualities like insight and sensitivity. Using humor displays a mastery of language and an openness to the human condition. If someone is “naturally funny,” they are probably really intelligent. Heck, ask them.
Say: “Wow, you are FUNNY. What’s your IQ?”   (Just messing.)
Study humor. Appreciate humor. Seek it out.
What was so funny?
Why did you laugh?
Why did you not laugh?
Why did you groan?
Smiling with Envy
People are often envious of those who are funny and able to make others laugh. I know I am envious of Jack Black, Dennis Miller’s rants, early Steve Martin, and Bill Cosby, circa 1966. Cosby’s comedy album “Wonderfulness” from that year is pure comedy gold. Anyone can learn to be more humorous with a little practice. Humor is a technique that can be learned, developed, and perfected just like origami (OK, not like origami, but you get the idea).
Incorporate humor into your daily life. Once you cultivate humor, you have the foundation for intellectual rapport. Not every attempt will get a knee-slapping belly laugh; your mission is bigger than that. A comedian succeeds just by being funny, but a networker succeeds only when the humor helps to create a positive impression.
But of course, humor will never substitute for solid listening skills. Mix too much yuck-yuck with too little care or respect and you will plummet , crash , and burn . Remember, the goal is be positioned as PROGRESS. You are not auditioning for a gig on the new Jay Leno Show.
Be Progress.