From birth to age 18, a girl needs good Parents, from 18 to 35 she needs good looks, from 35 to 55 she needs a good Personality, and from 55 on she needs cash. —Sophie Tucker
Humour can be used to express love, affection, and caring, and to spotlight your quick wit. It can also be devastating when used as a weapon to wound others where it hurts most. Using humour assertively takes practice. For starters, there is a big difference between its use and abuse. Sarcasm, a form of humour, is a powerful tool that can be particularly hostile, and is best left in the hands of comediennes. If you have been on the receiving end of sarcasm, you probably sensed anger and hostility passing for humour.
Healing Humour: “Laughter is the best medicine,” as they say at Reader’s Digest: humor can be healing. It eases tensions when no other strategy works. It can melt an impossible conflict, bypass an impasse, soothe hurt feelings, and give rise to a sense of well-being.
Express Your Humour: To express your sense of humour assertively, first embrace the idea that it’s okay to express it. Some would not risk telling anyone else about something he/she thought was funny. Because of their fear of rejection and needs of approval: “What if they don’t think it’s funny?” One may also feel anxious and guilty about finding humour in a serious situation, and would not joke about it.
Others use humour as a vehicle for insults and hostilities, hiding behind humour to attack others. Sometimes using humour to put oneself down, or to bait the compassion trap for others. On the other hand, a regular comedian — overuses humour. Others believe that to such a person everything is a joke, and their own interests will not be considered seriously.
Lastly the assertive person knows that it’s okay to express one’s sense of humour, and say something funny without feeling unduly anxious or guilty, and without fear of rejection. Knowing that some people will laugh and others won’t, but exercising the right to say something one thinks is funny without harming others, Actively expressing your sense of humour means saying whatever is funny to you, as long as you aren’t hard on yourself or someone else.
Like any other skill, humour can be cultivated:
- Collect funny cartoons and jokes in a “Funny File.” Refer to it frequently.
- Post, e-mail, sms funny stories, anecdotes, pictures, even fortunes.
- Don’t be afraid to inject a little levity into business presentations. You don’t want to be outrageous, but you can lighten your style enough to keep your audience attentive.
- Think of your own experiences, and try recasting them as short anecdotes or amusing stories. You might be surprised to discover that what was mortifying at the time is very funny later.
- Come up with your own “code words” that you can use when you feel under pressure and need to step back from a situation. Repeat them whenever you feel a downward, anxiety-driven spiral beginning, or to relieve tension.
- Build a video library of your favorite funny films. Do the same with books.
- Smile. It sounds trite, but research has shown that if you smile when you don’t really feel like it, your emotions get the message and start to adapt to what’s on your face! Conversely, if you frown, you actually spark the emotions commonly associated with frowning: worry; depression, frustration.
- Pick a funny role model and watch how she or he handles problems or crises. What would Julia Louis-Dreyfus do? How about Candace Bergen? Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey? Lily Tomlin? Jenna Elfman? Bette Midler?
- Every day, find something funny in your own behavior, in a situation, or in another person’s behaviour. Describe what tickles your funny bone about this. Share your perception with someone else without trying to be a comedian. Instead focus on expressing the humour in such a way that you are inviting the other person to delight in your perception and laugh with you. Laughter is contagious. It’s also healing, helpful and playful.
To respond assertively to something that you find humorous is to laugh, or smile, or chuckle about it. The important thing to remember is to express your humour, honestly and spontaneously, without feeling guilty or anxious about it, and without aggressively taking over every humorous situation. Your sense of humor is part of who you are; expressing it is part of being an assertive person. Smile!