Friday, October 29, 2010

Bullying: No Laughing Matter

One of the greatest fears that we have is the fear of being laughed at. Speech classes usually begin with the recognition that many people would rather die then give a speech. No one likes to be the brunt of ridicule and bullies know this. The prevalence of cruel teasing usually increases at the middle school level. The dark humor of sarcasm, mockery and ridicule are controlling tactics used by bullies to manipulate their victims.

Negative humor is often used to express frustration, hostility and anger. If one feels inferior, laughing at others becomes a way to feel superior and this heinous laughter become a weapon in the hands of stressed unhappy individuals.

Bullies are often adept at using negative humor to manipulate others. Control and power are their goals. Humor that is sarcastic, cynical, or mocking results in the recipient feeling helpless and vulnerable. So humor can become a powerful weapon of the bully, when used with the intentional purpose of wounding another person.

Bully behavior is frequently portrayed in the media as an acceptable method to express frustration, hostility, fears and anger. The use of mockery and sarcasm allows the venting of anger. Jokes abound on television, movies and the Internet with the express purpose of making fun of others. Our fears of differences have often been expressed in jokes about Italians, Jews, Mexicans, gays and religious entities. While often clever, these jokes perpetuate the bully mindset that it is OK to make fun of individuals or groups. There is research to suggest that this type of humor can eventually lead to violent behavior.

It is difficult to deal with bullying humor because these individuals often turn the tables when confronted with their negative behavior. They will say things like “Can’t you take a joke?” “I was just kidding!” This is a clever ploy intended to defend the bullying behavior and insinuate that the other person does not have a sense of humor. The fear of being accused of not having a sense of humor is close to the fear of being made fun of.

Please feel free to share ways that you have found helpful to confront the negative humor of bullies. Bullying behavior is prevalent in the news today, but I have not seen much on the negative humor as a weapon of choice by bullies. I will be sharing ideas and resources in subsequent blogs.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Humor and Politics

It's 98% of politicians that give the rest a bad name."

I am not really sure where I found this quote, but it certainly seems to exemplify the current atmosphere of the elections in the USA. It seems to be especially difficult to understand the issues this year, as the focus seems to be on fear and anger. If you watch television, you are painfully aware of the negative and emotion-laden ads. Political advertisers do realize that fear is our most powerful emotion. They know that these ads get our attention.

I believe that these fear-based and negative ads, that are coming from all political parties are increasing the fears and stress of our nation. This national anxiety is rising to unhealthy levels. This week I personally experienced this anger during a meeting that I attended. My in-box is full of fear-based emails from people who are passing along crazy claims and angry comments about those running for political office. And we wonder why we have kids that use bullying behavior!

ENOUGH! Here is my sage advice to politicians. Use positive humor in your advertisements--and I do not mean laughing AT your opponents. If you watch the super bowl advertisements you realize that the ones that people talk about at the water cooler on the following day are the ones that are the funniest. We can learn a lot about the power of humor from the folks who purchase these very expensive advertising slots.

Humor is a very powerful emotion. Wouldn't it be great if all of the political ads had us laughing and thinking about what a joyful, energetic and happy politician is running for that office? I would personally like to view political ads and decide my vote based not only on the issues, but also on the candidate with the best sense of humor.

Because if we are going to solve the difficult challenges that we face as a nation, I want someone who thinks positively and has a sense of humor.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Humor: A Bad Rap

"You do WHAT?" Whenever I tell people that I provide workshops on humor, laughter and stress relieve, there is always an amazed reaction. And most people say, "Well that is great-we need more humor!"

Yet there is little awareness of the purposeful use of humor. In fact I have encountered numerous folks who say they do not have time to practice humor or they do not think it really has a place in the workplace. Humorphobia does permeate our culture. There is an entire chapter in my book, Using Humor to Maximize Learning about humorphobia and humordoomers.

There are so many great benefits to practicing healthy humor, that I passionate about sharing this scientific research with others. I am honored to serve on the board of AATH (the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor). "OUR MISSION IS TO SERVE AS THE COMMUNITY OF PROFESSIONALS WHO STUDY, PRACTICE & PROMOTE HEALTHY HUMOR & LAUGHTER."

The very purpose of AATH is to give humor a positive rap. Our members include professionals who incorporate humor and laughter into their lives and work, people committed to humor and laughter, scholars and researchers who study humor and laughter, and all who feel they would benefit from this organization. Humor and laughter are used to enhance work performance, support learning, improve health and as a coping tool

As the Chilean miners emerge from their dark hole, it is obvious that our entire world is hungry for joyful news. This story has mesmerized the media. It almost seems to be a relief to be talking about "good news" for a change. We are usually immersed in negative media mania. Help us share the good news.

Create your own good humor rap. Check out the AATH web site and join the incredible people in AATH as we promote healthy humor. Our conference will be April 7-10 at Disney World in Orlando. Since I am the conference coach I can tell you that this year will be another "knock your socks off" event. You do NOT want to miss this opportunity to laugh, learn and practice humor.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Good For Nothing

Have you ever been good for nothing? In other words-have you done something wonderful for someone else knowing that you would receive nothing for it? There are so many volunteers that I have met recently who are constantly and consistently doing good for their community, their friends and their families. And they do it without the expectation that they will receive any compensation for it.

We tend to pay too much attention to the pervasive message in the media. I certainly do not need to tell you that the economy is in the pits. Jobs are scarce and poverty is rising. Gosh darn it!

ALERT: We can make the difference in the lives of others by doing good for nothing. Every day I read through my social media outlets about my colleagues who purposefully promote smiling, humor, laughter and joy. This is what I have identified as humergy in my book, Using Humor to Maximize Learning. Humergy emerges from the joy and optimism of our inner spirite. It promotes enegy and enthusiasm for life.

Most of us realize that when we do "good for nothing" - there are rewards. There is current research supporting the fact that our brain reward center receives a generous dose of "feel good" chemicals when we share humor and laughter with others.

There are also studies being conducted about what kind of brain activity is going on during generosity. It seems a mix of empathy and oxitocin are involved.

Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy are brought to you today by the letter "E"!

Wouldn't it be awesome if research finds that doses of humor, empathy and generosity cure depression? Keep smiling at everyone and evoke the "E" word today! Laughter and humor will expand your energy, enthusiasm and empathy. Oh and do become a "good for nothing"!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Choosing To Teach With Humor

Why should educators choose to integrate humor into all aspects of their teaching?

Within the last 5 years there have been numerous brain science studies that show a direct correlation between the emotions and memory. If you think about what you remember from grade school, chances are your strongest memories are tied to very strong emotional events. Fear is one of our strongest emotions for a very good reason. It protects us from harm. Excess fear can cause stress. Unfortunately this stress has been shown to inhibit learning (Sapolski 1998).

On the other hand. research on the positive emotions is pretty compelling. Barbara Fredrickson from the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill developed the Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions to explain the mechanics of how positive emotions were important to survival. According to this theory, the positive emotions expand cognition and behavioral tendencies. Several other studies indicate that strong positive emotions facilitate the learning process- again, we remember that which has a strong emotional context.

Several additional studies show that humor is a great vehicle for nurturing the positive emotions and helping to put information into the long-term memory.

Another fascinating development from brain science indicates l other factors that are impelling reasons to integrate humor in the learning process.
1. We learn with our entire bodies—not just with our ears. The traditional auditory lecture is not a very effective way to facilitate learning. Purposeful games, directed play and physical activity are much more effective ways to aid memory and learning. The trick is to engage students in the learning process. We learn much more when we are actively involved because the brain is firing on many levels.
2. We cannot learn if we are not paying attention. A joke, laughter and fun are attention getters. Humor wakes up the brain!
3. Humor creates a relaxed learning environment. Fun is actually conducive to creating a stress-free learning environment.
4. The number one characteristic that students want in a teacher is a sense of humor

Never take life too seriously, you won’t get out alive.