Laughter is a powerful tool for bringing people together, managing conflicts and reducing stress. This is how you can use humor and play to resolve disputes and strengthen your relationships.
A young man grabs a young woman and curses her ear as she laughs with pleasure and they both lean back
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's good for your relationships too.
In new relationships, humor can be an effective tool not only for attracting the other person, but also for overcoming any awkwardness created in the acquaintance process. In established relationships, humor can keep things exciting, fresh and vibrant. It can also help you get through past conflicts, disagreements and tiny aggravations that can accumulate over time and destroy even the strongest connections.
Sharing the enjoyment of humor creates a sense of intimacy and connection between two people - traits that define solid and successful relationships. When you laugh at each other, you create a positive bond between you. This bond serves as a strong reservoir against tension, disagreements, disappointments and bad corrections in a relationship. And laughter is really contagious - just hearing someone laugh precedes you to smile and join in the fun.
Whether you are looking to improve your relationship with a romantic partner, friends, family or co-workers, humor can help. With these tips you can learn to use humor to smooth out the differences, lower everyone's stress level and communicate in a way that will strengthen and deepen your relationships.
The Benefits of Using Humor in Your Relationships
Humor can help you:
Connect more strongly with other people. Your health and happiness depend, to a large extent, on the quality of your relationships - and laughter binds people together.
Slide on differences. Using gentle humor often helps you address even the most sensitive issues, such as gender or in-laws.
Scattered voltage. A well-timed joke can ease a tense situation and help you resolve disputes.
Overcome problems and setbacks. A sense of humor is the key to resilience. It helps you deal with difficulties, disappoint the weather and jump back from distress 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 reshape problems that may seem otherwise crucial and damage the relationship.
Be more creative. Humor and playfulness can set you free, stimulate your thinking and stimulate you.
Using humor to manage and neutralize conflicts
Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship. It can take the form of a big disagreement between the two of you or just small aggravations that have built up over time. Either way, how you handle conflicts can often determine the success of your relationship.
When conflict and disagreement throw a key in your relationship, humor and mischief can help ease the tension and restore a sense of connection. Used with dignity, light-hearted humor can quickly turn conflict and tension into an opportunity for shared recreation and intimacy. It allows you to move your point without increasing the other’s defenses or hurting his feelings. for example:
Alex is retired, but he's still going up to the roof to clean the gutters. His wife, Angie, has told him many times that it scares her when he uses a ladder. Today, instead of her usual complaints, she shouts at him, "You know, it's husbands like you who turn women into women." Alex laughs and carefully descends from the roof.
Lori's husband is a smart guy but after a few drinks at dinner, he incorrectly calculates the amount he should charge at the meal. It embarrasses Laurie, turns her husband into my defender, and often means a pleasant evening ends in an argument. The next time they go out to dinner and her husband goes to pick up the check, Laurie naughtily hands him 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 leave smiling and joking with each other.
Humor is not a panacea for conflict but it can be an important tool to help you overcome the rough points that plague any relationship from time to time. Humor - free of sarcasm or ridicule - neutralizes conflicts by helping you:
Interrupts the power struggle, relieves tension immediately and allows you to reconnect and regain a point of view.
Were more spontaneous. Laughter and play together help you break free from rigid ways of thinking and behaving, and allow you to see the problem in a new way and find a creative solution.
Be less defensive. In playful settings, we hear things differently and can endure learning things about ourselves that we might otherwise find unpleasant or even painful.
Leave inhibitors. Laughter opens us up, releasing us to express what we really feel and allowing our deepest and true feelings to surface.
Conflict Management With Humor Tip 1: Make sure you're both joking
Like any tool, humor can be used in negative as well as positive ways. Stormy 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 hurt the relationship.
Humor can help you overcome conflict only when both parties are in a joke. It is important to be sensitive to the other person. If your spouse, coworker, family member, or friend does not appreciate the joke, do not say or do it, even if it is "all in good fun." When the joke is one-sided and not reciprocal, it undermines trust and goodwill and can hurt the relationship.
Consider the following example:
Michelle's feet are always cold when she goes to bed, but she has what she thinks is a naughty solution. She warms her frozen legs by placing them on her husband Kevin's warm body. Kevin hates this game, repeatedly telling Michelle that he does not appreciate using it as a leg warmer, but she just laughs at his complaints. Recently Kevin started sleeping at the edge of the bed, a solution that keeps them away as a couple.
Humor should be fun and equally enjoyable for everyone involved. If others do not think your jokes or teases are funny - stop immediately. Before you start playing, take a moment to consider your motives as well as your person's mental state and sense of humor.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you feel calm, clear-headed and connected to the other person?
Is your real intention to communicate positive emotions - or are you digging, expressing anger or laughing at the other's expense?
Are you sure the joke will be understood and appreciated?
Are you aware of the emotional tone of the non-verbal messages you convey? Do you give positive and warm signals or a negative or hostile tone?
Are you sensitive to the non-verbal signals the other person sends? Do they seem open and receptive to your humor, or closed and offended?
Are you willing and able to back down if the other person reacts negatively to the joke?
If you say or do something offensive, is it easy for you to apologize right away?
Tip 2: Do not use humor to cover up other emotions
Humor helps you stay flexible in the face of life's challenges. But there are times when humor is unhealthy - and then it serves as a cover for avoiding painful emotions, rather than dealing with them. Laughter can be a disguise for feelings of hurt, fear, anger and disappointment that you do not want to feel or do not know how to express.
You can laugh at the truth, but covering up the truth is not funny. When you use humor and mischief as a cover for other emotions, you create confusion and mistrust in your relationships. Here are some examples of misplaced humor:
Mike is laughing more than ever. Nothing seems to ever take him down and he never takes anything seriously. No matter what happens to him or anyone else, he makes a joke out of the situation. In reality, Mike is frightened of intimacy and commitment in his relationships, and uses humor to avoid uncomfortable feelings and keep others at bay.
Sharon is often jealous and possessive with her boyfriend John, but she has never learned to openly discuss her insecurities and fears. Instead, she uses what she thinks is humor to express her feelings. Her jokes, on the other hand, usually have a biting advantage, almost hostile to them, and John does not find them funny at all. Instead of laughing, he often responds with a quiet cold or retreat.
For clues about using humor to hide other people's feelings, ask yourself:
Is the joke at the expense of another person or group? Is it falling apart and dividing, instead of building and uniting?
Are you really trying to share a mutual laugh, or do you have a different agenda (putting criticism, putting the other person in his place, proving you are right, etc.)?
Do you often use humor to bring yourself down? There is nothing wrong with looking at yourself kindly, but frequent self-deprecating jokes can be a defense mechanism for low self-esteem and insecurity.
Is humor your default, even in serious situations that call for sensitivity and maturity? Have more than one person told you that your jokes are inappropriate or unscheduled?
Do other people take you seriously? Or do they see you as a clown, maybe a good laugh, but not someone to be trusted in difficult times?
Tip 3: Develop a smarter sense of humor
Some are easier than others to use humor, especially in tense situations. If your efforts are not going well, the following tips may help.
Follow up on non-verbal cues. If someone does not enjoy your humor attempts, you will know from their body language. Does their smile look fake or forced? Are they leaning towards you or leaning towards you, encouraging you to keep going?
Avoid vicious humor. It may work for some comedians on stage, but if used one on one, it will not only fall but may also hurt your relationship. Saying something offensive or insulting, even when framed as a joke, can alienate the other person and weaken the bond between you.
Create internal jokes. An inner joke is something only the two of you understand. It can often be reduced to a word or short phrase that reminds both of you of a funny event or amusing story, and is usually guaranteed to elicit a smile or laugh from the other person. When two people are the only ones getting into a joke, it can create intimacy and pull you together.
It's safe to start with humor humiliating itself
If you are uncomfortable joking with light-heartedness or cracking jokes, or you have trouble knowing what is appropriate in any given situation, start using self-deprecating humor. We all love people who do not take themselves too seriously and are able to gently mock their failures. After all, we are all flawed and we all make mistakes. So, if you are having a bad hair day or you just poured coffee on yourself, make a joke about it. Even if the joke falls or comes out wrong, the only person you risk hurting is yourself.
Once you are comfortable asking for jokes about yourself, you can expand your range to include other types of humor.
Tip 4: Use your naughty side
Do you have a hard time joking or letting go? Maybe you do not think you're funny. Or maybe you are self-conscious and care about how you look and sound to others.
Fear of rejection or ridicule when trying to humor is an understandable fear, but it is important to note that you do not have to be a comedian to use humor to manage conflict. The point is not to impress or entertain the other person, but simply to ease the mood and neutralize stress. So do not be afraid to just walk around and act silly like a child. It can lower the other person's defenses, and bring you both into a more positive state of mind that contributes to smoothing out differences.
Give you back naughty naughtiness
It is never too late to develop and embrace your playful and light-hearted side. If you do not feel comfortable letting go, just remember that as a baby you were naturally naughty. You did not worry about other people's reactions. You can re-learn this quality.
Start by identifying the things you enjoy that border on fun or mischief. For example, you may want to:
Book or listen to jokes.
Watch funny movies or TV shows.
Dance around cheese music when you are alone.
Sing mischievously in the shower.
Read the funny pages / comics.
Once you have identified naughty things that you are already enjoying, you can try to incorporate them into your relationships. The important thing is to find fun activities that set you free and help you embrace your playful nature with other people. The more you joke, play and laugh - the easier it becomes.
Practice with the "experts"
Play with animals. Puppies, kittens and other animals - young and old alike - are eager friends and always ready to go wild. Volunteer to care for pets in a shelter or rescue group, stop playing with a friendly animal in your neighborhood, or consider getting your own pet.
Play with babies and young children. The real authorities in human play are children, especially young children. Playing with children who know you and trust you is a wonderful way to reconnect with your naughty side.
Interacting playfully with customer service personnel. Most people in the services industry are social and you will find that many will welcome the playful clash. Try your wit at a cashier, receptionist, waiter, hostess or friendly salesman.
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 maintain your relationships and manage conflicts.