The role of humor and laughter in relationships.
We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine, and it is true. Laughter relieves stress, elevates mood, and makes you more resilient. But it is also good for your relationships.
In new relationships, humor can be an effective tool to not only attract the other person, but also to overcome any discomfort that arises during the process of getting to know each other. In established relationships, humor can keep things exciting, fresh, and vibrant. It can also help you overcome conflicts, disagreements, and the little annoyances that can build up over time and destroy even the strongest ties.
Sharing the pleasure of humor creates a feeling of intimacy and connection between two people, qualities that define solid and successful relationships. When you laugh with each other, you create a positive bond with each other. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreement, disappointment, and bad patches in a relationship. And laughter is really contagious: just hearing someone laugh makes you smile and join in the fun.
Whether you’re looking to improve your relationship with a romantic partner, friends, family, or coworkers, humor can help. With these tips, you can learn to use humor to smooth differences, reduce everyone’s stress level, and communicate in a way that strengthens and deepens your relationships.
The benefits of using humor in your relationships
Humor can help you:
- Form a stronger bond with other people. Your health and happiness depend, to a large extent, on the quality of your relationships, and laughter unites people.
- Gentle on the differences. Using gentle humor often helps you tackle even the most delicate issues, such as sex or in-laws.
- Diffuse tension. A timely joke can ease a tense situation and help you resolve disagreements.
- Overcome problems and setbacks. A sense of humor is the key to resistance. It helps you face difficulties calmly, weather disappointment, and recover from adversity and loss.
- Put things in perspective. Most situations are not as bleak as they seem when viewed from a playful and humorous point of view. Humor can help you reframe issues that might otherwise seem overwhelming and hurt a relationship.
- Be more creative. Humorous and playful
Using humor to manage and disable conflicts
Conflict is an inevitable part of all relationships. It can take the form of a great disagreement between the two of you or just small annoyances that have accumulated over time. Either way, the way you handle conflict can often determine the success of your relationship.
When conflict and disagreement throw a key into your relationship, humor and fun can help ease tension and restore a sense of connection. Used with respect, a little lighthearted humor can quickly turn conflict and tension into an opportunity to share fun and intimacy. It allows you to express your point of view without raising the other person’s defenses or hurting their feelings. For example:
Joseph is retired, but he still goes up to the roof to clean the gutters. His wife, Angie, has told him numerous times that he scares her when he uses the ladder. Today, instead of her usual complaints, she yells at him, “You know, it is husbands like you who make wives annoying.” Joseph laughs and carefully lowers himself from the ceiling.
Linda’s husband is a smart guy, but after a few drinks at dinner, he constantly miscalculates how much he should give for food. This embarrasses Linda, puts her husband on the defensive, and often means that a pleasant evening ends with an argument. The next time they go out to dinner and her husband moves to collect the check, Linda playfully hands her a calculator and says, “There are three types of people: those who can count and those who can’t.” Her husband laughs and instead of leaving the restaurant arguing, they smile and joke.
Humor is not a miracle cure for conflict, but it can be an important tool to help you get through the tough times that afflict each relationship from time to time. Free from hurtful or ridiculous sarcasm, humor neutralizes conflict by helping you:
Disrupt the power struggle, instantly relieving tension and allowing you to reconnect and regain perspective.
Be more spontaneous. Shared laughter and play help you break free from rigid ways of thinking and behaving, allowing you to see the problem in a new way and find a creative solution.
Be less defensive. In playful settings, we listen to things differently and can tolerate learning things about ourselves that we might otherwise find unpleasant or even painful.
Let go of inhibitions. Laughter opens us up, freeing us to express what we really feel and allowing our deep and genuine emotions to surface.
Tip 1: Make sure both of you are joking
Like any tool, humor can be used negatively and positively. Making sarcastic and hurtful comments, for example, and then criticizing the other person for not being able to take a joke will create even more problems and ultimately damage a relationship.
Humor can only help you get through conflict when both parties are joking. It is important to be sensitive to the other person. If your partner, coworker, family member, or friend is unlikely to appreciate the joke, don’t say it or do it, even if it’s “a lot of fun.” When the joke is one-sided and not mutual, it undermines trust and goodwill and can damage the relationship.
Consider the following example:
Linda’s feet are always cold when she lies down, but she has what she thinks is a playful solution. She warms her icy feet by placing them on her husband Joseph’s warm body. Joseph hates this game and has repeatedly told Linda that he doesn’t appreciate being used as a foot warmer, but she only laughs at his complaints. Lately, Joseph has lain down on the far edge of the bed, a solution that distances them as a couple.
Humor should be equally fun and enjoyable for everyone involved. If others don’t think your pranks or jokes are fun, stop immediately. Before you start playing, take a moment to consider your motives, as well as the other person’s state of mind and sense of humor.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you feel calm, lucid and connected with the other person?
- Is your true intention to communicate positive feelings, or are you digging, expressing anger, or laughing at the other person’s expense?
- Are you sure the joke will be understood and appreciated?
- Are you aware of the emotional tone of the nonverbal messages you are sending? Are you emitting positive, warm signals or a negative or hostile tone?
- Are you sensitive to the non-verbal signals the other person is sending? Do they seem open and receptive to your humor, or closed and offended?
- Are you willing and can you back off if the other person responds negatively to the joke?
- If you say or do something that offends, is it easy for you to apologize right away?
Tip 2: Don’t use humor to hide other emotions
Humor helps you stay resilient to life’s challenges. But there are times when humor is
It is not healthy, and that is when it is used as a cover to avoid, instead of dealing with painful emotions. Laughter can be a disguise for feelings of pain, fear, anger and disappointment that you don’t want to feel or don’t know how to express.
You can be fun with the truth, but covering up the truth is not fun. When you use humor and play as a cover for other emotions, you create confusion and mistrust in your relationships. The following are examples of misplaced humor:
Joseph is a constant joker. Nothing seems to depress him and he never takes anything seriously. No matter what happens to him or anyone else, he makes a joke of the situation. In reality, Joseph is terrified of intimacy and commitment in their relationships, and uses humor to avoid uncomfortable feelings and keep others close at hand.
Linda is often jealous and possessive with her boyfriend John, but she has never learned to openly talk about her insecurities and fears. Instead, she uses what she thinks is humor to express her feelings. However, her jokes often have a biting, almost hostile touch, and John doesn’t find them funny at all. Instead of laughing, she often responds with a cold or silent withdrawal.
For clues as to whether humor is being used to hide other emotions, ask yourself:
- Is the joke at the expense of another person or group? Does it collapse and divide, rather than accumulate and unite?
- Are you really trying to share a mutual laugh, or do you have another agenda (receiving criticism, putting the other person in their place, showing that you are correct, etc.)?
- Do you usually use humor to humiliate yourself? There’s nothing wrong with making fun of yourself, but frequent self-deprecation jokes can be a defense mechanism for low self-esteem and insecurity.
- Is humor your fault, even in serious situations that require sensitivity and maturity? Has more than one person told you that their jokes are inappropriate or inappropriate?
- Do other people take you seriously? Or do they see you as a clown, maybe a good laugh, but not someone to depend on in difficult times?
Tip 3: Develop a smarter sense of humor
Some find it easier than others to use humor, especially in tense situations. If your efforts are not going well, the following tips may help you.
Control nonverbal cues. If someone is not enjoying your humorous attempts, you will be able to distinguish it from your body language. Does your smile seem fake or forced? Are they leaning towards you or towards you, encouraging you to continue?
Avoid mean humor. It may work for some comedians on stage, but if used one-on-one it will not only fail, but it can also harm your relationship. Saying something hurtful or insulting, even when framed as a joke, can alienate the other person and weaken the bond between you.
Create inside jokes. An inside joke is something only the two of you understand. It can often be reduced to a short word or phrase that reminds both of you of a funny incident or a funny story, and is generally guaranteed to generate a smile or laugh from the other person. When two people are the only ones “involved” in the joke, you can create intimacy and bring them together.
Tip 4: Take advantage of your playful side
Do you find it difficult to joke or relax? Maybe you don’t think you’re funny. Or perhaps you are self-aware and concerned with how you will look and sound to others.
Fearing rejection or ridicule when trying humor is an understandable fear, but it’s important to note that you don’t have to be a comedian to use humor to handle conflict. The point is not to impress or entertain the other person, but simply to lighten the mood and calm the tension. So don’t be afraid to tease and act like a child. You can lower the other person’s defenses, putting them both in a more positive state of mind that leads to smoothing differences.
Claiming your innate joy
It is never too late to develop and embrace your happy and joyful side. If it bothers you to let it go, just remember that when you were a baby, you were naturally playful. You didn’t care about other people’s reactions. You can relearn this quality.
Start by identifying the things you enjoy that border on fun or amusement. For example, you would like:
- Tell or listen to jokes
- Watch funny movies or TV shows
- Dance to cheesy music when you’re alone
- Playfully sing in the shower
- Read the funny / comic pages
After acknowledging the fun things you already enjoy, you can try incorporating them into your relationships. The important thing is to find enjoyable activities that relax you and help you embrace your playful nature with other people. The more you joke, play and laugh, the easier it will be for you.
Practice with the “experts”
Playing with animals. Puppies, kittens and other animals, both young and old, are eager playmates and are always ready to have fun. Volunteer to care for pets at a shelter or rescue group, stop to play with a friendly animal in your neighborhood, or consider buying a pet of your own.
Play with babies and toddlers. The true authorities in human play are children, especially young children. Playing with children who know and trust you is a wonderful way to get back in touch with their playful side.
Playfully interacts with customer service people. Most people in the service industry are social and you will find that many will accept playful pranks. Test your wits at a friendly cashier, receptionist, waiter, hostess, or salesperson.
As humor and play become an integral part of your life, you will begin to find daily opportunities to use your new skills to help you maintain relationships and manage conflict.