How positive humor can promote lifetime connections
by Jacki Kwan, LCSW-C
If there’s one thing people are lacking in today’s fast-paced, hi-tech world, it’s meaningful connections with others. Walk down any city street and you’ll witness thousands of people all co-existing together in complete solitude. There’s little eye contact, few friendly smiles, and an almost absence of initiating new friendships.
Those in suburban environments don’t fare much better. Between 40+ hour workweeks, hour-long commutes to and from work, and an ever-growing “to do” list, many people barely have time to eat dinner with their own family, much less reach out to others and initiate a friendly bond.
Although our world population has grown in recent decades, we’ve become more isolated from our neighbors than ever before. We’ve evolved into a society that prefers sending e-mail rather than engaging in one-on-one dialog, watching TV sitcoms instead of participating in real life, and turning to Internet chat rooms for company as opposed to joining a local community group. What a sad and lonely world!
Fortunately, there is a solution to this social dilemma, and it’s something we all have the capacity to do. In order to form meaningful connections with others and reconnect with your own life, all you need to do is laugh. Through humor, you can rediscover what is truly important in your life and uncover the unique spiritual connection we all have with our fellow human beings.
The Humor and Spirituality Connection
Good humor (other than ice cream) can be an excellent way to trigger the spiritual connection between people. Positive humor and the act of laughing transcend all language barriers and give people a common ground on which to relate. Young or old, healthy or ill, male or female, each of us has an innate capacity for humor and can use laughter, giggles, or smiles to break down emotional walls and reach out to others.
Realize, though, that humor doesn’t always translate into gut-busting laughter or slapstick comedy. Many times humor is subdued, and that is when our spirits are truly free to connect with others. As you strive to use humor to create more meaningful connections in your own life, keep the following guidelines in mind.
Keep It Positive
Positive humor equals a positive state of mind. When your humor is positive, you understand that people need different things at different times in order to be in “good humor.” Sometimes we need to laugh, while other times we simply need someone to sit and breathe with us. Positive humor is never hurtful, nor does it degrade a person’s spirit. It’s always uplifting, and it gives people a temporary release of any negativity they may be harboring.
In reality, laughter is only one of the ways we express our humor. And sometimes, laughter isn’t involved at all. For example, if you’re attempting to connect with someone who is depressed or ill, using jokes, silly faces, and whoopee cushions would defeat the whole purpose and put the other person in a more negative state of mind. What the person may need is simply someone to sit with them and share a moment of peaceful silence. The goal is to distract a person from the negative emotions and enable them to refocus on positive ones. You can’t force someone to laugh; you can only invite them to do so.
Be Mindful of the Other Person
To give people what they need to reach a more positive state of mind, you must build rapport with the other person and let him or her know that you understand and that you care. One way to accomplish this is to be mindful of the person’s state of mind and health, and to alter your own communication style so you match the other person’s. Pace your breath with the other person. Mirror his or her gestures and movements so that you’re in synch. Make the volume, tone, and pitch of your voice similar to the other person’s. You want the other person to see, hear, and feel you on his or her level so you can form a connection.
The more mindful you become of people’s attitudes, feelings, and emotions, the more connected you’ll feel with them. You’ll begin to sense the rapport you build in even the most miniscule of moments. When a stranger walks by and nods at you in recognition, when your friend places her hand on yours, when an elderly neighbor asks you to sit with him or her for just one more minute…those are the moments when you’ll sense the bond that has formed. Again, the actual act of laughing may never occur; rather, it’s the positive atmosphere you help create that will keep the other person in good humor. As a result, the connection will spontaneously occur.
Listen with Your Heart
As we routinely rush from task to task, we often don’t truly listen to what people are saying. Sure, we may physically hear their words, but we often miss the underlying messages in what they say. Those underlying messages often hold the key to making or breaking the human connection.
When you listen with your heart, you listen with all your senses. You not only hear what others are saying, but also how they say it as well as what their body language is telling you. The more information you allow your senses to take in, the stronger the connection grows.
Listening with your heart brings a level of acceptance to the interaction. It minimizes judgment. The more senses you engage as you listen, the more apt you are to accept the other person for who he or she is without putting any expectations on him or her. This is important, because your expectations and judgments put a box around your thinking and your emotions. When you release your expectations, you have more flexibility in your thinking and in how you react to others. When you expect something, you look only for that one thing. However, when you put your heart into the equation and let go of expectations, your possibilities for meaningful connections are endless.
Put a Humorous Spin on Life’s Events
Finding humor in a situation is a matter of allowing that little childlike part of yourself to come out and play. Regardless of how you perceive yourself, you do have a childlike essence within. We all do. Some people are just more comfortable letting it show than others. In today’s fast-paced, bottom line oriented world, it’s easy to understand why the inner child often gets squashed. So many people are filled with sadness, anger, and frustration that those emotions seem to take over. However, if you can put a humorous spin on events, your heart and spirit will soar. So in essence, laughing can help you achieve a greater sense of inner peace. In the midst of that most delicious serenity you’ll feel more at ease with yourself and (around) others, and therefore more emotionally available to connect.
One great way to put a humorous spin on otherwise seemingly negative events is to exaggerate the event to the point of the ridiculous. For example, suppose a friend is depressed because her boss got angry with her that day. As you listen and gauge her emotional state, you can lighten the mood by comparing the angry boss to a raging bull. Describe how he or she would look with flaring nostrils, stomping hoofs, and horns coming out the head. Encourage the other person to join in with the description to see who can stretch it to the point of absurdity!
Realize, though, that there may be times when humor is not appropriate. For example, if someone is in the middle of a crisis, it’s often difficult to step back and see the event from a different perspective. However, when you look for the humor in life as a part of your daily routine, you can better develop and encourage the positive perspective that’s needed when the going gets tough.
Make Your Own Connections Today
Smiling to a stranger, saying “hi” to someone who looks lonely, being patient with the person in front of you in the grocery store line – all these are simple ways to make connections and spread positive humor to others. Remember, humor is not always about jokes and being silly. Sometimes it’s about comforting another, “being there” for someone, and offering hope when none seems to exist. These are the things that entice people away from a place of negativity and invite them into a place filled with positive energy. When you can do this for another, you can transcend any existing or perceived barrier and pave the way for a meaningful relationship. You then have the beginnings of a positive connection…with a bonus of warmth and joy.