When many of our great leaders were faced with crisis and challenges, they used their sense of humor to ease the tension and open the road to peace. Churchill and Kennedy were two of our leaders who were able to diffuse and disarm their adversaries by leading with laughter. One of Kennedy's quotes to soften the blow of his difficult remarks; “When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home.” I think these leaders believed one of my favorite quotes; “First you get them to laugh and then you get them to think!”
Infusing positive humor into tense situations provides a release of negative emotions. It is difficult to feel anger while one is laughing. Humor relieves tension and reduces stress. The benefits of humor are enormous but one of the greatest benefits is the ability to facilitate communication. From my book, Using Humor to Maximize Learning, Exploring the Links between Positive Emotions and Education is this quote; “Using humor to build and maintain relationships is an invaluable skill. Emotional intelligence (EI), the ability to perceive assess and influence one’s own and other people’s emotions is essential for knowing when and how to use humor effectively. (Goldman 1998)
The ability to use humor as a part of interpersonal dialogue requires confidence in one’s own humor strengths, a fun-loving playful spirit and the willingness to risk the extraordinary.” Humor generates trust and can facilitate a reduction in tension, fear and anger. It takes effort to assist others in seeing the “humor” in difficult situations, however laughter can nurture communication and ease tense situations. Exaggeration, puns, and self-deprecating humor are tools of the trade. When we are able to use reframing (example: the ridiculous or exaggeration) as a devise to facilitate a shift in context it encourages both individuals and groups to think creatively.
Laughter can quickly dispel tension and increase the capacity for dialogue. Most of us experience unexpected change, suffering and loss in our lives. As we are able to find the humor in a situation, we can begin to heal and move ahead. Difficult experiences, if met with hope and optimism can generate remarkable growth opportunities. In fact, humor frequently emerges from the down side of our lives. Inner peace comes when we are able to find humor in our painful experiences. We trust the people that we laugh with. Fun and trust go hand in hand. Peaceful solutions will be found when we experience laughter and joy as an integral part of our lives.