Sunday, July 15, 2007

Humor and Resilience

Laugh! Go ahead, just laugh. It’s amazing to me just how many of life’s natural processes are now the subject of intense scrutiny and analysis. Take laughter, for example. The study of laughter is now well considered and here are some facts that are not disputed.
  • The average human laughs (or does some form of this activity) about 17 times a day.
  • Laughter is contagious. You know this one to be true.
  • Laughter almost always during pauses at the end of sentences or phrases.
  • Laughter strengthens human connections.
  • The physiological study of laughter is called gelotology.
  • Laughter balances the immune system.
  • There is an actual practice now called “laughter therapy.”
There are plenty of laughter specialists out there. We are happy to know one in our own backyard. It is our pleasure this week to introduce you to Lynn Grasberg, a.k.a. Penelope the Clown,. She was born on April Fool’s Day, which probably has something to do with her choice of professions. She is the former director of the San Francisco School of ReMirthing and is currently Chief Comic Officer for Humor Relations Associates. As a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and presentation coach, she helps her clients use humor to handle serious issues. We struck up a partnership with Lynn shortly after we opened Capabilities, offering our community space to her for classes and coaching sessions. What a delight it is for us once a week for the eight weeks of her classes to hear laughter, big and hearty, pouring through the walls into the store. We can’t help but smile.

This Saturday, July 21 at 4 p.m., Lynn hosts an event open to the public. Laugh Yourself Healthy is an hour and a half of mirthful activities where Lynn is joined by students from her most recent classes to entertain and delight. It’s an event not to be missed, especially if you are feeling especially grumpy. You will leave smiling and perhaps even laughing out loud! See our Events page for details.

This blog is excerpted from Lynn Grasberg’s book, Bounce Back! The New Play Ethic at Work (book and music CD available at Capabilities).

Humor: [n.] a healthy perspective. The ability to notice the difference between what IS and “what’s sposed to be” . . . and find it amusing.

I’m a humorist because I’m on a serious mission – to help adults recover our ability to laugh and play together in order to:
  • Stop worrying.
  • Honor and cherish all children including the child that lives inside each grown-up.
  • Make better decisions and policies under rapidly changing conditions.
  • Work together more harmoniously.
  • Have FUN while getting things done.
Inclusive Humor
I specialize in inclusive humor – the kind that means everybody “gets the joke” and no one is the butt of it. Inclusive humor connects people and promotes collaboration. In contrast, abusive (“put-down”) humor evokes laughter at someone else’s expense and contributes to an atmosphere of veiled criticism, fear and isolation.

Humor helps us have perspective on our tragi-comic dramas. Not to mention, boring meetings. Ah, perspective. So easy to lose while multi-tasking in the muck.

We all have the ability to shift our perspective, although sometimes it feels like we need a two-ton truck to help move us when we get stuck. Humans are amazing though. We can do it, especially with practice. Humor helps.

Nobody is required to be a victim to his or her own bad attitude.

Our ability to flexibly shift our viewpoints is a learnable skill that has positive repercussions on our health, our ability to communicate with difficult people (especially ourselves) and our capacity to solve “impossible problems.”

The following two humor techniques are the best things I learned when I went to clown school. Since most of you probably didn’t go to clown school, I’m happy to share these remedial techniques with you. Once you start applying them, you may wish you learned them in kindergarten.

Enjoy and broadcast your mistakes.

Most of us were taught that it’s bad to make mistakes so we cover them up. Of course, this is VERY STRESSFUL and usually makes things worse.

Instead of minimizing your mistake, make a BIG deal out of it. Point it out with an enthusiastic “Oops!” and enjoy the event with others rather than feel mortified by yourself.

The Oops Advantage
When you let other people know about your mistakes, you are more likely to get help. (You’ll never get any help if it’s a big secret. Besides, your willingness to show what’s going on with you might open the door for other people to do the same.)

If you practice saying Oops when you don’t need it, it’s easier to remember when you do. All together now: OOPS!

Celebrate EVERYTHING (starting with yourself).

When you go to the circus (and admit it, doesn’t your office sometimes seem like a circus?), there is a find old tradition that we expect as audiences and that we NEED in order to feel that the show is complete. It’s the applause part.

After someone does a death-defying feat or a ridiculous trick, they raise their arms, the music declares “Ta-DAH!” and everybody claps, sometimes even standing to do so.

Create a Culture of Appreciation
We are constantly surrounded by exhibits of beauty, courage, mastery and kindness, but many of these events go unacknowledged. You can do something about this! When you see a natural wonder (an incredible sunset! A co-worker pulling of an amazing project! Your child cleaning up a mess without even being asked!), draw attention to it by point to it and ringing out an exuberant “Ta-DAH!”

Then lead the applause.

For more humor techniques and the principles, pick up a copy of Lynn’s Bounce Back! book and music CD at Capabilities.

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