As much as I talk about leadership and personal development, there is one subject that I don’t write much about – humor. It has been an integral part of my life and my work. I have found that a well-timed humorous comment can often be just what the situation needs to relieve tension or awkwardness present in a moment. The key is ‘well-timed’ and ‘humorous.’ The risk is that a comment may not be well-timed and/or may not be humorous.

The humor I’m referring to is the kind that juxtaposes the seriousness of a situation with something funny.  In an instant we are afforded another look, another perspective in dealing with the ‘emotions’ or ‘seriousness’ of the moment.  It can improve how we relate and reveal a little more of our humanity.

I am not talking about sarcasm, at least not normally. Sarcasm often has a ‘victim.’ Oh, it may be funny, but at who’s expense? I used to use sarcasm with some frequency. I didn’t learn until much later what a bad choice that was. A colleague and friend took the risk of telling me that my use of sarcasm, in the presence of those who didn’t know me, was often not funny and reflected poorly on me. She was right, and I have always appreciated her courage to help me make a better choice.

In almost every walk of life a sense of humor seems to be an asset.  As I discovered, humor has a way of relieving tension.  It can be the ‘ice breaker’ that is valuable in new relationships, in new teams, and how we work together.  At work, humor can be the ‘safety valve’ in relieving the stress of a moment or a day.  Well done, humor is…well…fun!

Humor invites us to not take ourselves too seriously, nor the human condition.  We know that laughter has healing potential.  Humor may be either God’s greatest mistake if you believe we should take ‘all this’ more seriously, or His greatest gift if you believe we need a modicum of relief from what is inherently a serious place.

As most of you know, I do a lot of work with Emotional Intelligence. People with a good sense of humor (the ability, in this case, to accurately read the situation and know when a humorous comment is a plus) seem to have better than average development of their emotional intelligence. I believe part of this is because EI is measuring a person’s social and emotional ability. It is connected to the ability to accurately read a given situation or person and know how to respond.

Humor may be the ‘X’ factor in many situations. It may be the one ability of how we think about ourselves that allows us to be a little more objective, it likely will help us express ourselves in the world, establish and maintain relationships, make decisions that are full of emotions, or deal with stress that allows us to be more successful and fulfilled in our lives.  It is subtle, and often overlooked, but as I saw somewhere, “People with a good sense of humor are more attractive.”

So, as we transition from summer to fall, does your life feel like it could use a little more humor? Would it be helpful if life seemed a little less serious, even for a moment? For me, I always appreciate a good laugh, or at a minimum, a good smile. The people that can do that with me and for me are often the same people that tend to give me energy. They just have a way of putting things in perspective that is a little more optimistic, a little more positive.

Perhaps your humor needs a little ‘dusting’ off. Perhaps you have gotten a little serious about your life, about yourself. It’s easy to do. Give humor a try the next time you are obsessing about a given moment, or a period in your life. The endorphins released just might be the ticket to a little ‘relief.’ Sometimes, that’s all I need – a moment of relief.

What role does humor play in your life, in your work, in your relationships?

To a better you…