Join Izzy Gesell for an in-depth discussion in this video Humor as protection, part of Humor in the Workplace.
- In this chapter I'm going to talk about some of the different functions of humor, or in other words, how we use humor. Often humor can serve us differently during different moments in our lives, and that includes the workplace. Sometimes you need a shield, other times you need a weapon. One of the functions of humor is the shield. It serves as our protector. Using humor for protection is to make fun of yourself or something that you do. It's a way to acknowledge your imperfections before someone else points them out.
By bringing something to the surface, you've protected yourself before someone else can hurt you with the truth. In this way you're shielding yourself, protecting yourself with humor. This kind of humor is also known as self-effacing or self-derogatory humor. The difference between the two is that self-derogatory humor is laughing at who we are. I'm a klutz, I'm a fool, I'm lucky to be here. Self-effacing humor is laughing at what you did. Sometimes I trip and fall, it happens, meaning I'm not perfect but I'm not attacking my core value or self-esteem.
Let's look at an example. You're presenting in front a group and as you approach the front of the room, you trip over a cord on the floor. People start giggling nervously. What do you do? If you say something like, "Can someone please keep track of "the number of times that I trip? "My record is three times during one presentation. "Maybe today I can break my record." What you've just accomplished is using self-effacing humor to set the audience at ease, acknowledge your mistake, and take control of an awkward situation.
You're laughing at what you did, not at who you are. Now let's look at this scenario from another angle. This time when you trip, let's say you said, "Oh I'm such a bad presenter. "I can't even make it to the front of the room." Or "I'm just an accident waiting to happen." This is different. In the previous example humor was used to poke fun at something that happened, not at the person it happened to. By consistently degrading yourself in front of co-workers with self-derogatory humor, you're devaluing yourself in the eyes of others.
You're depleting your self-worth and this can negatively affect others' perceptions of you. You might even begin to believe that it's true. Think about yourself and the people around you. Is there more self-effacing or self-derogatory humor? Who's able to use self-effacing humor? Who uses self-derogatory humor? How do you feel when you're around those people? How would you describe your own use of humor as a shield?
- Understanding why we laugh
- Using humor as a weapon or connection
- Shifting perspectives through humor
- Releasing tension with humor
- Expanding your humor skill set