There is a reason comedians are popular. It is because they keep things interesting. They make people think about life in different ways. Humor can be a powerful tool when it comes to communication. It helps people to feel comfortable and to breakdown barriers. It helps to make the uncomfortable more easily received.
For people who suffer from social anxiety or have difficulty connecting with others, humor can be a vital tool in getting them to open up. There are plenty of situations in life that are not pleasant, everything from routine physicals at a doctors office to parenting troubles. There is also a lot about this world that is boring but that we have to accept as “facts of life”— car repairs, paying bills, work meetings, the list goes on and on. Humor helps to make all of these things a little easier to take.
Research (Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication) shows that people find it difficult to receive information from someone who has little or no sense of humor. Laughing with another makes people more receptive to new ideas. Humor allows us to approach things that might be otherwise threatening in a non-threatening way.
Recalling a funny memory in times of distress can help provide comfort. Making light of a serious situation to bring a smile to a person’s face can help to bring them back to earth. Lighthearted humor ignites thoughts, opens us up, and grabs our attention. Not to mention, it eases our stress. You could be having the worst day but when you change your thought process to think about the humorous side, things get a little easier.
In therapy, humor helps counselors and clients establish a rapport. It can help to put things into perspective and accept the information we are receiving. Humor encourages further communication.
So, next time you are faced with establishing a boundary or addressing a problem with a coworker, child, spouse, etc. consider using humor to get your point across.
I once met someone from a business meeting. We made an appointment to talk and then he asked me if I could remind him the day before the phone meeting, so he wouldn’t forget. The feminist part of me started fuming. He had just treated me like his secretary.
This is called emotional labor. He didn’t want to stress over remembering our meeting so he was asking me to. That’s not fair. That is implying that my time is less valuable than his. You have every right to feel offended when someone pushes their emotional labor onto you. He could easily have set a reminder in his phone, added it to his calendar. He didn’t need me to add another thing to my to-do list. What do you do when someone treats you this way?
What do you do?
Ignoring the request seems like the easiest way to take on this tough situation. You, obviously, want to keep a professional relationship but that doesn’t mean you have to take this shit. If they care enough they will make the meeting. If they don’t make it then its their fault, not yours. And, frankly at that point it is not worth your time. If they don’t have the capacity to remember the meeting on their own then it didn’t matter as much as it should have.
A nice response would be to say: “Funny, I was about to ask you the same. I suppose we will just have to remind ourselves then.” It is you standing up for yourself, setting boundaries, and showing this person that your time is just as valuable as theirs. You don’t have to be forced into taking on other peoples emotional labor just because you are afraid of offending. You have the right to take care of you.
When doing therapy with teens, I often hear from parents that they don’t want their “kid to feel uncomfortable.” They do want their teen to learn how to relax, to be less anxious, to cope with their feelings. But, they don’t want uncomfortable topics to come up. They shy away because they think they are protecting their child.
Parents often ask why I would approach uncomfortable topics in therapy. The truth is we don’t want to discourage these topics from being talked about. When we avoid these things, we are sending the message to our kids that they can’t come to us to express themselves. It makes them want to protect us, adults, since we are the ones uncomfortable talking about these things.
Our teens need to know that they have a place to come and talk and share their experiences, their fears, their worries. They don’t need to learn the courage to talk about these subjects. They need to have the courage to tackle them.
Uncomfortable things happen to everyone. We all think things, worry about things and are faced with things that are confusing, stressful, and awkward to share. Our teens especially are faced with these situations because they are in an awkward growth period of their lives. With a lot going on in friendships, relationships, and themselves. They need to feel safe to approach these topics so they can come up with healthy solutions to tackle them. By discouraging the discussion of things because they are “uncomfortable” we are forcing our children to go elsewhere for solutions or to keep it all trapped inside.
How do you approach things that are “uncomfortable” with your teen?