I just came back from a 3 hour a day laughing holiday. The laughing part was completely unexpected and very welcome. A big hug to all In Sabina Yogis for this wonderful week! It made me realize how laughter creates a strong bond between complete strangers, bridges cultural differences and helps us connect to our inner kid, our true self. Let’s find out how we can bring back more laughter from our childhood to adult work and life.
Your inner kid does not grow older
As a small exercise I would like you to remember what made you laugh when you were a kid. I fondly remember the following episodes that used to make me laugh so much:
To make us shut up and go to sleep, my wonderful grandmother invented a game: She would gently tuck us in and then say: “Whoever talks first and breaks the silence will have to eat a giant poo taco which is hidden behind the door!” Hilarious.
After a while, when reading a bedtime story to us, my father would use to slow down till he pronounced the words with the speed of a dropping faucet. Obviously we would protest loudly. He responded by speeding up till he spit the words out as fast as a rocket. Thank you dad.
On Saturdays we loved to watch a program called “Scaccia Pensieri”. The best part of the program was the intro, during which we used to crack up. Turn up the volume and enjoy:
Did you break out into uncontrollable giggles? I didn’t think so. It’s true that growing older changes our sense of humor. But age does not change our ability to laugh. Your inner kid, your true self, does not grow older. We simply run out of practice to connect to it.
Play vs work
When we were smaller our typical day would be structured into sleep, breakfast, playtime, lunch, playtime, dinner and back to bed. At this point in our life most activities were fun, as long as we could do them in a playful way together with friends or family.Compared to this, the typical adult workday looks like this:
Obviously, there is less room for play and therefore less room for laughter. We have to go hunting for our salary, so we needed to replace play with work. But why do we laugh less at the office?
Out of some crazy believe we seem to think that laughing does not belong to the workplace. Laughter might not be appropriate in many situations. But does this mean that we have to stop laughing completely? Laughing is a powerful ally and has many healthy side effects. Let’s learn how to us it wisely.
Laughing creates bonds and boundaries
We laugh about funny situations, a good joke. But more often we laugh to socialize. A short “Ha Ha” signals that everything is ok, that we are feeling fine. My wife often asks me: “Hey, what was so funny? I did not hear. I want to laugh with you.” At which point I realize that I actually have no coherent idea why I laughed. It simply felt right, at that moment, in that context. I was socializing.
In a group of playing kids or working adults, laughter creates a strong bond. A bond we can build upon.But careful! Laughter also creates boundaries. Who laughs is in; who’s quiet is out. During a presentation about humour the neuropsychologist Prof. Dr. Lutz Jaencke explained a neurological condition that inhibits people to laugh. Those patients are usually located in a separate ward at the hospital, where no one is allowed to tell jokes and should refrain from laughing. Simply, because hearing a group of people laugh would make these people feel even more isolated than they already are.
Maybe this feeling of isolation is the reason why we are afraid to laugh out loud in a work environment. If we laugh out loud and no one joins in, we fear the feeling of separation. If only part of the group laughs back, the rest of the people can feel isolated. So what should we do?
We should simply be aware that laughter has these two sides, creating bonds and creating boundaries. Laughing wisely means that while we are having fun we should always keep an eye open for the people around us. Maybe they are ok with it, are happy to observe what’s going on. Or they are waiting for an opening in the conversation. Help them to connect to their inner kid, give them an opportunity to join.
Staying true to your inner kid means to play more with your colleagues. Work can be play, if we allow everyone to laugh more. After a stressful meeting I love to walk by the desk of people I have had a long laughing history with. A witty comment, a remark about an awkward situation and pretty soon we are all laughing.
Over time you will be able to take it to the next level and change complex, mind and body wracking work into “workful” play. All the laughing practice will have created a bond of trust and respect which allows everyone to behave silly, the moment she or he runs out of energy. A quick laugh, a smile, to recharge the batteries and then back to work.
To outsiders you might look like stupid kids fooling around. What more could you wish for? Fooling around with your friends, as when you were a kid, emerged in the experience, while at the same time earning your salary and doing a great job.
Go ahead; connect to your inner kid. Laugh more; laugh wisely.