Using humour makes you appear more clever, engaging, confident and charismatic. It is proven to have the ability to make you more persuasive. Business people are recognising this and the shrewder ones are actively looking at ways to make humour work for them professionally and profitably.

There is, however, one major stumbling block that deters many people from attempting to increase their use of humour. Whenever I suggest that we proactively add humour to our day — both private and professional — the most common response is: “I’m just not funny!”

Some people think that the only way they can add humour is by saying something original and witty. They compare themselves to the cleverest writers and comedians and, of course, they come up short.

Expecting ourselves to add humour this way is unrealistic because most of us simply don’t have the ability. It is also unnecessary. Humour can also be created by your intent and approach.

For example: You look for ways to put what you say in their context.

“In a store in Australia, if you saw 100 customers in a day, it would be a record. In Singapore, you’d call that a quiet day!”

‘FAIL-SAFE’ HUMOUR

Would you use more humour if you knew you couldn’t fail? Of course you would! Yet, many of us make the mistake of using the wrong measure of success. It should all be based on your intent.

• Wrong intent: You want to add humour to show them how clever you are. Your expectation is that they will laugh; so, if they don’t, you have failed.

• Right intent: You want to add humour to make the communication more pleasant and interesting for the other person.

This way, even if they do not laugh out loud, their perception of your intent will make a positive impression.

SHARED UNDERSTANDING

A lot of humorous communication is based on two parties acknowledging an uncomfortable truth in a way that avoids embarrassment.

I arrived at a client’s office for a meeting. As I walked into the office, he was obviously engaged in a heated argument with his business partner. The door to his office was closed, but the walls could not contain the angry voices. In front of me was the office manager, clearly embarrassed that I was witnessing this.

Quickly, I said, “You know, I meant to grab a coffee at the café next door before the meeting. I think I’ll go and grab that now.” The office manager smiled in relief. This has now become a long-running in-joke between us. I now arrive and say, “Is it good to see Rob now, or should I get a coffee first?”

Relief humour is one of the most basic forms of humour. In the example above, my intent was not to say something funny; it was to find a way of acknowledging the difficult situation that we were both in and to minimise the office manager’s embarrassment. Her laughter, in this case, was triggered by her relief.

Adding humour does not require you to say or do something funny. Just look for opportunities to make others comfortable, uplift them with a compliment or relieve their embarrassment and the humour will happen. You might not get a “belly-laugh”, but you’ll certainly get a smile.

Article contributed by Kevin Ryan, Managing Director of Training Edge Australia and an international speaker, workshop leader and author with Training Edge International.

* This article first appeared in The Straits Times Recruit"