Thursday, June 27, 2013

Women at Work: Funny AND Successful

Humor-wise, author, humorist, and feminist, Dr. Gina Barreca, sees the world changing for women at work. "Humor from women," she says, "is not only increasingly acceptable both individually and in a professional setting: it’s expected. It’s regarded as part of leadership skill-set. Humor is an indication of quick-thinking, careful listening, an ability to take controlled risks and the desire to play well with others."

Here's my advice for women about being funny at work: use humor strategically. See details below. There is evidence that a woman’s good sense of humor can benefit her career. When 200 executives were asked to name the qualities that kept women from succeeding, lack of a sense of humor was near the top of the list.

Using humor improves a woman’s chances of attracting power and credibility, but women should be aware of a double standard when attempting to inject some humor into a situation. A woman telling a joke is not likely be viewed with the same acceptance as a man telling the same joke. So says psychologist Steve Wilson, an internationally recognized authority on applied and therapeutic humor.
Viva la Difference?
Understanding the gender issues associated with humor helps women benefit from the strategic use of humor, which has traditionally been available primarily to men in the workplace.
·         Men and women have somewhat different senses of humor; women's humor tends to be kinder than men's.
·         Men will joke about almost anything (gratuitous humor); women's humor tends to be empathetic, situational, or funny stories about the family or everyday life; creating harmony where there has been tension.
·         Men tend to be comfortable telling jokes to anyone who will listen; typically, women are more comfortable telling jokes to small groups of people they know well.
·         Women have greater social permission than men to laugh at even the smallest amount of humor. Men often feel a “masculine imperative” to make others laugh while also daring others to “make me laugh!”
·         In our culture, it is generally expected that the man will initiate the humor and the woman will be passive and receptive; and, men and women have different comfort levels about taking center stage or having power.
·         Men are more expected to be able to take "practical" jokes and dish them out.
Management consultant, Dr. Barbara Mackoff says that women in business need to show a good sense of humor. “In reality,” she says, "a woman can be funny and still maintain her credibility."
Funny, credible, and VERY successful
Writing for FORBES about humor as a key to success at work, Jacquelyn Smith says, “Whatever the reason might be, if you or your colleagues tend to be dry and dull in the office, you’ll want to work on injecting more humor into your workday.”  Smith quotes Lynn Taylor, workplace expert, “You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian, but well-placed humor that is clever and apropos to a business situation always enhances an employee's career.”

Showing one’s good sense of humor has advantages in hiring, promotion, and leadership opportunities. Long the hallmark of a pleasant personality, employees with a sense of humor are viewed as having highly desirable traits required of today’s leaders, executives, managers and supervisors: flexible, creative, and adaptable to change.

When you use humor you do not stop being serious about your responsibilities, values, goals, and beliefs; you show that you can take yourself lightly. Studies show that executives believe that employees with a sense of humor do a better job; and, CEOs prefer job candidates with a sense of humor. The two most desirable traits in leaders were found to be a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.  Donna Couper, a business consultant, says, "Even in a job interview, assuming you're qualified for the position, showing that you have a sense of humor will make your prospective employer feel more comfortable with you."

Effective work teams develop a special form of group humor called "the inside joke", a humor-in-common language that plays a bonding role, strengthening loyalty, and making the work environment more pleasant and, yes, more productive, too.
Much joking fits in with a competitive style that is more comfortable for men. Certainly, women do tell jokes, and many can do it well.  However, according to Professor Deborah Tannen, "Since [women] are not driven to seek and hold center stage in a group, they do not need a store of jokes to whip out for this purpose." She also reported, "There are fewer such (story-telling) personalities among women than among men. Many women who do tell jokes to large groups of people come from ethnic backgrounds in which verbal performance is highly valued.  Many women are less likely than men to tell jokes in large groups, especially groups including men."

Jenna Goudreau, FORBES staff writer about business and women’s leadership, calls the idea that humor is dangerous in the office is “old-school HR.” Rapidly going out of vogue are Victorian ideas about laughter and humor such as: women should always be able to take a joke but not get a certain innuendo; women should laugh along with the laugh track; smile perpetually; and, women should not laugh with their mouths open.

Advice For Women Using Humor At Work
1. Don't merely imitate men's humor. Women's humor has the advantage of tending to be more personal and situational, with the effect of being harmonizing.

2. You do not need to tell jokes: a warm smile, a true story, the “Erma Bombeck” view of things, or a well-timed ad lib can bring even more benefits than jokes. Beverly Sills said, "I can't be happy every day, but at least I can be cheerful."

3. Use only humor that fits you, that fits the occasion and the audience, and when the time is right (not “too soon”).
4. Promote the use of humor in company newsletters and on bulletin boards.

5. Encourage "humor breaks" or times when everyone can lighten up for a few minutes.
6. If the joke has to be "on" someone, make it yourself, but NEVER belittle yourself with a joke.

7. Don't poke fun at abilities, race, religion, gender or anything that other people couldn't change in the next five minutes.
8. If you do decide to tell jokes, practice privately until you can tell them well.

CAUTIONS: Be wary of humor overkill. The “class clown” may be a distraction and barrier to teamwork. When it comes to humor, everyone must be sensitive and sensible. There is no place in the work place for humor that is sarcastic, ridiculing, uses taboo language, or is sexual, sexist, racist, age-ist, or otherwise puts people down. Use humor that lifts people up, and draws them together.
Goudreau cites psychologist Steven Sultanoff, PhD, an expert on applied humor, saying, “used effectively, humor helps people get along, decreases turnover and increases productivity. And that’s no joke.”

Monday, June 10, 2013

Why I Love AATH (and why you might want to join)

I have been a member of Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH) for more than 20 years. It's a pretty nice group to belong to. If you belong, you have already experienced what I am about to describe. If you are not yet a member, you might want to consider joining.  I have memberships in other organizations in this field, but AATH suits me in particular ways that I will try to explain.
AATH epitomizes the sage advice to take your responsibilities seriously but take yourself lightly.

AATH Humor Academy Graduates - Keen Minds, Kind Hearts, Quick Wits

AATH inspired and encouraged me to create the most worthwhile professional endeavor of my life, to reach around the world for humor’s sake, and create the World Laughter Tour.

Walking the Talk: The Medium is the Message
Through the AATH website, newsletter, and especially at their conferences, you get to laugh and learn and be inspired. You get support for being a person who believes that humor and fun are important life forces. You get to associate with the leading thinkers and researchers in the field, and discover that they are accessible and down to earth. You are encouraged to develop your personal brand of accomplishing lofty laughter goals, contributing to a better world, and having fun, too. That alone is worth the price of admission.

AATH is a professional association. You become a member. Membership has its benefits. What attracted me to it in the first place? What keeps me coming back? What do I hope will never change?
The More Things Change, The More I Would Like Some Things to Stay the Same
Change has been trending for several years in how people affiliate, communicate and educate. A trend toward home exercise equipment instead of going out to a fitness club. A trend toward e-mail and texting instead of writing letters or making a phone call.  Updating on social media instead of meeting at the local coffee house. Getting information by surfing the Internet instead of subscribing to print magazines and journals; staying home instead of traveling to attend professional conferences.
These trends have affected AATH. To remain viable, AATH will go with the flow and make changes that will be real improvements. But, some things cannot be replaced with modern technology.

Life is a psycho-social proposition. We are social animals. If we don't get the social part of life right, we will go psycho! AATH has a beautiful social side.

My AATH friends believe in me even when I am unbelievable. We do that for each other and for everyone who shares that vision.
Rubbing Elbows With the Best & Brightest

Other organizations are more focused on doing the scholarly research about humor, or exploring the literary depths of wit and humor, but AATH is the ‘nuts & bolts’ of therapeutic humor, with a strong focus on practical applications.

Cooler Heads Prevail
AATH helps me understand the science of humor and its implications for the human condition and a better world. The membership is largely clearly compassionate comrades who use their humorous perspectives to promote harmony, peace and love.
AATH communications and conferences are fun, although not just for fun; they are entertaining, but not just for entertainment.

AATH has a nurturing quality toward its members and toward the larger world. We honor those who paved the way, from Hierokles and Philagrios to Norman Cousins, Vera Robinson, Jerry Lewis, Dr. William Fry, Jr., and Red Skelton.

I think these qualities are deep in the roots and origins of AATH, which evolved out of an organization called "NFL - Nurses For Laughter"; healthcare professionals who banded together to support each other to exploit humor in every positive way. They brought with them an appreciation of good science and standards of practice and, in spite of a dearth of evidence compared to what is now available, they had insights into the possibilities that humor could play a significant role in caring and healing. They knew that having fun could bring them relief from their occupational stresses without diminishing their professionalism, and might actually help them be more effective.

The Mix is Magical
In AATH there is an odd mixture of smart, talented, witty people and ideas that I find very appealing. Serious and goofy, supportive and caring friendships, silly and simultaneously trying to illuminate the human condition. This creates an energy and a balance that I like.

Clowns, jugglers, patients, poets, musicians, comedians, educators, and scientists welcome the opportunity to mix it up. A fabulous mix of funny and serious personalities discovers that they are actually like-minded, kind-hearted folks. Some are thinking about humor; most are doing something about it in venues of business, healthcare, and education.

This is the place where I can take in a lecture on ‘humor and pain’, perform my yo-yo tricks, join my esteemed colleagues putting napkins over our heads while miming eating clown noses at a banquet, and watch otherwise serious professionals let loose creative send-ups of who we are.

I hope that the values and character that come from the roots of AATH will not change. They are reasons I have maintained my membership for so many years.

From time to time, I attend the conferences of related organizations, but, AATH remains my favorite. I hope it will thrive and grow and make a place for people like me for a long, long time.

Every week during the 16 seasons of the series of Dancing With The Stars, contestants have been kept in suspense as to whether they are “safe” and will get to compete again, or whether they are “in jeopardy” and therefore might have to leave the show.
Being in jeopardy is nerve-wracking. Being safe is uplifting, and it renews hope.

My wish for AATH: Be safe and stay seriously funny for a long time. Continue to be vibrant and relevant and fun in your own unique way. I'm glad I am a member.

Maybe you would like to join, too? AATH