Work is serious business, but if that’s all it is you’re in serious trouble. A monotonous routine, solely focused on achieving goals and meeting deadlines, is a recipe for anxiety and stress. And all of your talent and tenacity won’t mean much if your health is compromised. The advice from an old Leonard Cohen song comes to mind: Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. It’s also where laughter comes in. Humor has a way of softening the difficulties, complexities, and tensions of life. Here are some of the benefits of letting your guard down and allowing for more lighthearted moments at work.
Connecting With Coworkers
You might be fearful that sharing your humorous side will make you less respected and appear less professional to your coworkers. The opposite is true—laughter will make others more comfortable around you and desirous to work with you. Think about it…if you’re in a difficult situation, would you rather be on a team that can laugh about their predicament on the way to solving it, or be among those who are dull and terminally serious? Humor keeps things light, provides perspective, and bolsters peoples’ moods through difficult times. And working with people who appreciate a good sense of humor helps to build trust, which forms bonds. Perhaps renowned business author Dale Carnegie made the best argument for the value of laughter in the workplace: “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”
Humor, if used effectively, is a great way to get attention for an idea you’re trying to get across to your coworkers, or depending on your vocation, in the work itself. It’s also a potent tool to diffuse conflicts and build bridges. In some situations it can be the ice-breaker that gets two very conflicted sides to communicate. Studies have shown that people who use humor in stressful situations are seen as being in control of things, even when they aren’t. Studies also prove that getting someone to laugh at the onset of a negotiation can help ingratiate the person to you as well as leave them with a feeling of satisfaction. Our 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, found it to be indispensable, saying, “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”
Lord Byron, one of Britain’s greatest poets, once said, “Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” He was right. Laughter, according to the Mayo Clinic, creates positive physical changes in our bodies. Most of us our familiar with endorphins, which get released when we exercise. Scientists have found that laughter also triggers these feel-good chemicals. But that’s not all it does. A rapturous belly laugh relaxes your muscles, increases your blood flow, raises your pain threshold, and improves your immune system.
Like anything, humor has its downside. Too much of it hurts productivity and jokes at the expense of others can create a toxic work environment. But the benefits of laughter are too numerous not to encourage it in the workplace. The upcoming holiday season is an opportune time to lighten up and laugh. The trick is to carry that spirit into the New Year!
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