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Climbing the Corporate Ladder with Humor

Has anyone ever told you "Don't be so serious"? At some point between the ages of 7 and 11, someone looks at us and says 'get serious and grow up' -and we do! Then we spend the rest of our life trying to figure out how to re-invent our sense of humor.

In many of my presentations, I will often give my 'Funny Bone Inventory' quiz-rating each attendees comic nature. It's a great self- disclosure tool. Our sense of humor is something that we usually just don't spend time thinking about. It gets lost in the demands of everyday drudgery of schedules, school, jobs, and obligations . Think about it. How do you think you would rate? Does laughing out loud come easily for you? When is the last time you had a good belly laugh? When is the last time you gave others a reason to laugh?

Scientists today are discovering that our bodies have provided a natural antibiotic for disease-laughter. It not only increases the release of endorphins which makes us feel better because it actually diminishes physical and psychological pain but laughter also stimulates the immune system to increase its disease-fighting ability. Laughing is not only fun, but it is necessary for good health!

Since 5/7 of our life is spent at work, it only makes sense that we need to figure out ways to bring our sense of humor to work. Take your work or your problem seriously, but take yourself lightly. If you happen to be a person who feels nothing is ever your fault , or you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and feel that everything is your responsibility, you probably would benefit from 'lightening up'.

In your professional development, there are definite perks to developing your humor: You will be able to communicate easier; people will see you are being real and tend to trust you easier. You will be more likeable. Others will want you on their team as you will be perceived as being easier to work with-all this plus, you will find yourself enjoying your work more! A sense of humor will allow you to handle crises better, keep things perspective and help generate creative ideas. If you are in charge of a brainstorming session for your department, start it off with a bit of humor. Get them laughing and relaxed and watch the ideas roll! In that next presentation, a humorous overhead or fun comment will help make your presentation a hit. The benefits of humor will give you an edge that can ultimately make the difference between being overlooked or being promoted.

So how do we start this journey to find our sense of humor? Here are some suggestions:

Start Simple: Humor takes all kinds of forms. It doesn't always mean we need to come up with original clever comments. Sometimes it can be what we do, not what we say. Start keeping a humor file - funny quotes, cartoons, articles, and jokes. Invest in fun. Toy stores are a great place to find laughter-producing gadgets, pencils, key chains and props. One of my friends asked for a supply of my 'noses' that I use in my programs. She wanted one for each girl in the office. When their boss walked in on Monday morning, they all simultaneously looked up at him -wearing their clown noses. What a great start to the week! Investing in little memos or stickers with funny sayings can spread cheer indefinitely. Always include a little humor and inspiration in your departmental newsletters or memo. Write down on you daily calendar how many times each day you've added humor to your life. Start looking for opportunities to add that 'something special'.

Identify and Imitate. What types of things do you find funny? Name three people in your life who you feel are witty and fun to be around. Write down their style, what is it they do to make you laugh? When a situation arises, imagine how they would respond and try it. It might mean taking a risk. Start at a level that is comfortable for you. Watch comedian acts and notice their delivery style. As your confidence increases and you keep working at it, it will become natural for you. Think of it as trying to make someone else's day, or how to make a situation better.

We have a 27-year old nephew who was blessed with a magnificent sense of humor.(He initiated being our family Santa at Christmas) . After working in his first position for a national corporation, he soon became one of their top salesmen. When the company was bought out, just about everyone had been called into the head office and told their positions were terminated. When he received his dreaded invitation to meet in the head office, he figured he had nothing to loose. He entered the executive office for that meeting wearing a brightly colored hard hat. The tenseness of the situation transformed into laughter. This was typical of his 'timing' and his ability to read situations and people. (He was one of 6 employees retained)

Humor Strategies. Some simple techniques to enlighten your thinking and give it a humor twist are:

Comparison: Compare something to something ridiculous. Examples: a copy machine that is as old as the hills-a Jurrastic Park special, or as slow as molasses;

Play on words: Seinfeldt is famous for this type of humor: Why do they call them 'connecting' flights when they're at different ends of the airport?

I personally have noticed that most cemeteries have entry signs that read 'Dead End" or "One Way"!

Exaggeration: Stretch the story. The Chocolate chip cookie tasted so good it would have taken the jaws of life to pry it from my hand!

1.1 Keep it short. People love to hear stories! Think back to your childhood-our lives are full of good material. But have you ever listened to someone's story that started out funny but just didn't end? When you decide to share a funny story with others, keep it brief. People do not enjoy hearing a play by play, he said-she said dialogue. They get bored very quickly. Condense your sentences so they are short. Is it necessary to the punch line? If not, leave it out. When you get a good story pulled together, give it some thought. Practice it for effectiveness, and then cut it in half.

1.2 Can't tell a joke? I think many of us would fall into that category. For some reason we think it is a natural ability that either you have or you don't. Joke telling is a skill that anyone can develop. It takes the time and effort to memorize it and practice. Don't overwhelm yourself. Start with one simple short joke-or even a one-liner. I had always admired my friend's ability to tell a joke at a party. I never told jokes-mostly because I could never remember them. Then I discovered my friend's secret. Each time she got dressed for an event, she would pull out her library of accumulated jokes and refresh her memory on one or two that she would use that night . She had no special memory for jokes, she just worked on it. She felt it was part of her responsibility as a guest to be able to contribute -and had fun doing it.

A few tips of caution: Having a sense of humor does not mean being boisterous or commanding. Some of the most quiet people I know, have the best sense of humors. They have the uncanny talent of interjecting a comment at the right time-their subtlety gives the humor twist. There are also people who have the delightful skill to playfully interject 'silliness" and get laughs. This is a great technique but women need to approach this technique with a bit of caution in the workplace so they are not perceived as flighty and thus, not taken seriously (we have enough problems with that!) . Humor killers to be aware of: abuse and insensitivity. Never get a laugh at another person's expense.

Make a joy list. If we are going to have a mindset conducive to creating humor, we need to be aware of what makes us feel free and wonderful. Write down the things that make you feel good. This might be things like listening to Yanni, going for lunch with a friend, gardening, working out, soaking in the tub by candlelight, the fragrance of lilacs, the feeling of clean sheets, taking walks. At work it might mean looking at pictures of family in your workspace, having fresh flowers, sharing thoughts and cartoons, the smell of your favorite hand lotion(or keeping a 'Bounce" in one of your drawers!), playing a game during break.

Your first list might be small, but after a few months, go back and add to it . Be sure it includes 'play'. High stress or competitive activities are not good here. It is the relaxing, joyful activities that free up your mind, making it conducive to creativity and humor. Try to incorporate your Joy list items into your daily schedule. (How about starting a break room "Joke Day" with a contest for the best joke?)

Stamp out 'Terminal Professionalism'. The results are in. A sense of humor relieves stress, aids physical and mental health. It deserves priority as a career skill. Look at your humor skill development as an important personal goal. Having a sense of humor can be a great asset. It will enhance your leadership capabilities and set you apart from others. Practice on family members, the paper boy, and grocery clerk. Soon you will develop your own style. With briefcase and humor in hand, you will find you are enjoying life more and are ready to advance on the ladder of success!

Does your humor need help? Try these Humor Development Aids:

For jokes & 1-liners, check:

Take a Comedy Club Class: Offered by Cardinal Stritch College, Milw.

Read the Book: "Lighten Up" by C.W. Metcalf & Roma Felible

Food for thought:

It's a grand person who can laugh at himself

with others, and enjoy it as much as they do.


He who laughs, lasts.

M. Poole

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