My public speaking mentor once told me that the content of someone’s presentation was irrelevant, because anybody can deliver any given material.
What he focused on was the speaker’s humor, because humor is the only universal language. Humor is one of the few things in this life that has the capacity to override people’s native defenses, he instructed. Laughing lubricates people’s intellectual digestive system, the surprise of humor creates tension in the air, and that’s the ideal time to introduce new ideas to an audience.
How are you using laughter to relax people and accelerate the receptivity of their learning?
And we’re not talking about telling knock knock jokes. This isn’t about turning yourself into a standup comedian or a performance artist who’s trying to manipulate people into laughing. The goal here is to invite people to laugh at what you find funny.
Think about that for a moment. That is a profound, vulnerable, joyful expression. One that has the ability to lay a foundation of connection and trust in an interpersonal exchange.
It’s one of the reasons my answers to people’s questions about my nametag are almost always playful, absurd and comical. Because people are only asking me about it resolve their cognitive tension. Seeing a guy wear a nametag consistently without an apparent reason either offends their sense of order, piques their curiosity, or bothers them enough that they feel the need to investigate further.
For example, if a stranger in a bar walks up and pokes me on the shoulder and asks about the nametag, my instinctive answer is often a joke about having memory problems, my bad habit of getting lost, my need to have everyone know my name, or the problem of forgetting who I am.
People almost always laugh, at least a little. Dad joke as it may be, that’s a very real, human connection. This moment is, to quote my favorite fiction novelist, like trying to lasso someone with a joke and a smile, teasing them back from whatever far off fields they’d been galloping through.
It matters. Especially if the conversation delves into deeper territory, having already shared a laugh with someone in the first ten seconds of the interaction overrides both of our native defenses and makes us more open to each other’s viewpoints.
Because an entertained person is an open person. Humor opens up the ditch so the truth can fall into it.
And considering that we live in an interpersonally impoverished landscape, where face to face interaction is space of threat, pain and difficulty rather than richness, connection and meaning, this is a small victory worth celebrating.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Where might your interactions go if they started from a place of joy?