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Humor as Wisdom October 21, 2011

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Humor can be a powerful – or devastating – force in any relationship.  Tell the wrong joke, misinterpret the context, execute a cultural faux pas, or generally offend the other party and you can doom a conversation – or a career.

How many politicians have recently been vilified for saying something they thought was witty, only to find out it was a racial slur or otherwise offensive comment?  Obviously, one could avoid the situation by never trying a joke or humor.

But that’s boring.  No one like a humorless speaker either.  Why?

A sense of humor, timing, context, and propriety all work together to make comedy what it is.  But these things also provide cues to the listener and even work to build trust.  In short, being effectively humorous and being able to tell a good joke mean that you have an understanding of the listeners and know where their boundaries lie.  It allows them to be more forthcoming with their own words and for you to therefore learn even more about them.

This isn’t about cynicism, harsh sarcasm, or spiteful speech.  It’s about connecting with others through a basic human need to laugh.