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Are They Laughing?

laughWhen you work in business where communication is an essential part of someone’s success, it is hard not to watch the political candidates with a magnifying glass. We seek out what is working and what is not working, and then connect the dots for clients to back-on-the-job application. The goal is always to capture the attention of your listener. If you can’t find a way to keep your message interesting, people will tune you out.

The use of humor is especially tricky. Humor can unlock an audience’s receptivity. It grabs people’s attention. Touching the heart, the funny bone and the brain improves the likelihood that your message will be more effectively delivered.

But if you have to point out that you were ‘just kidding” or ‘being sarcastic’ – then your joke has missed the mark. Some things about using humor that are important:

Jokes vs. Stories
Leave jokes to professional comedians. Humor at work that is on target and works possess the message of the communicator.

Ask yourself:

  • Does my story provide meaningful commentary?

  • Does it tie into my main point?

  • Is it pertinent?

  • A good story cannot replace the point you are trying to make.

Humor to Avoid
Sarcastic Humor – Humor that brings laughter at the expense of others. This kind of humor can keep people apart rather than bringing them together. Sarcasm can work with close friends equally adept at its use, but it can be dangerous. Sarcastic conversations between friends where there are years of friendship gives a context of trust and caring to the “not so caring” messages. On the job, however, such comments are not appropriate. And the people who overhear sarcasm don’t know the intentions involved.

Ethnic Humor – Bias is too easy to ignite and too difficult to stop. Steer clear.

Laughing at Others – It’s more appropriate to laugh at yourself or at a common experience than to laugh at others. When humor works you laugh WITH others, not AT them.


  • Make your messages memorable – use a prop that can create interest..

  • Open with a shocking attention-getter – an alarming statistic, a photo that drives the point home, or an insightful question.

  • Quote a song as a lead in to a point you are trying to make.

  • Take your listener into account. Who are they and what do they want to hear?

  • Low-risk humor makes sense in business.

  • Keep it brief.

  • Practice telling the story. Don’t ‘shoot from the hip’ – you can shoot yourself in the foot!

  • Use pauses to create interest and relay drama.

  • Don’t be afraid to be silly. A little can go a long way to humanize you.

  • Don’t be afraid to use a good story more than once.

  • Know the difference between public and private humor.

  • If you are going to use gender or regional humor, make it at the expense of your gender or your

  • Use a “humor sandwich”. Tell the point you are trying to make, give it back in the form of a humorous story illustrating the point, then restate your point again in a memorable way.

  •  Develop a notebook, or listing of favorite jokes or quotes. You can find your material everywhere. Adapt and personalize your favorites.

  • Slide a punchline into your memo’s – it catches people off guard and lets you know that they are really reading them!

It’s been said the ‘laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone.’ But if your humor falls flat, or worse, annoys or insults, then you could be laughing alone too.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 17th, 2016 at 2:25 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.