The influential philosopher of the late 19th century, often called the “Father of American Psychology,” understood that a sense of humor was as valuable an attribute as common sense.
There is deep wisdom at the heart of humor. It allows you to look at challenges with a lens that frees you from defeat. Laughter lowers stress levels, permits you to comfortably engage with others, and allows you to diffuse difficult situations.
You don’t have to be laugh-out-loud funny to have a sense of humor. All you need, as Eric Idle sang in the musical, Spamalot, is a willingness to “look at the bright side of life.”
- What makes you laugh? Think about the last time when you laughed out loud. What was so funny? Reader’s Digest post thousands of funny (and clean!) jokes on their website.
- Understand context. What might seem humorous or funny to you could also be interpreted as clueless or tasteless by others. Be sensitive to cultural or gender bias. The point is to laugh without sacrificing your dignity.
- Learn to laugh at yourself. If you can find absurdity in your own circumstances, you can keep them from getting you down. Poet Robert Frost said, “If we can’t, we would all go insane.”
- Stay above the fray. To develop a sense of humor, be objective. Much that we call humor is victim-related: the guy who slips on a banana peel or the poor dumb blond. You can laugh or make humorous remarks without sacrificing your dignity.
- Lighten up. Not everybody’s humor will be the same as yours and what might tickle them to death might make you yawn. Instead, find the humor in the situation.
- Watch and learn. Go see a funny movie or watch a YouTube video. Learn something new: be willing to adjust your funny-bone-perspective.
Humor allows you to see the ironic, the satirical, and the whimsical in circumstances around you. It need not be dark, profane, or sarcastic to be funny. Humor is clever when it invites you to consider different points of view.
A sense of humor is the leading attribute people look for when they want to build relationships with others. If you can find the absurdity in your own circumstances, you can keep them from getting you down. Victor Borge was correct when he said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”
At no other time in history has large audiences gathered to watch reality TV stars demonstrate notoriously mean and nasty behavior, bachelors and bachelorettes systematically slash each other up and out of one another’s lives, or talent show judges ridicule and laugh at hopeful contestants. Except at the Colosseum. 1900 years ago. What we once called “rudeness” is now considered “entertainment.”
Our planet desperately needs brave souls with a sense of humor. And kind hearts. They make the world a brighter place to be.
What makes you laugh?
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