Laughter, the shortest distance between two people

Sei Mani insight

Laughter, the shortest distance between two people by Elina Oost, 24th July 2017

There’s a good reason why Super Bowl advertisers, who pay an average of $5 million for 30 seconds of air time, make funny ads.  Scientific research has proven that people tend to understand the message better and remember it longer when information is accompanied by humour.

Why We Laugh
“Laughter was a safe, early social signal to form human bonds,” says Carl Marci, MD and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School:  “Before we could speak, laughter told early humans that everything’s okay, you can come over to my side.”

Scientists have described laughter’s evolution as one that preserved shared expressions of relief, marking the passing of danger. Certain contemporary researchers think that jokes link with this. We laugh out of relief when we recognise the surprise element of the joke.

Elina Oost, Sei Mani’s authority on how we architect and deliver collaboration coaching explains why we inject humour into our work.

We’re often asked how we’re so good at changing people’s behaviour and driving incredible levels of adoption of enterprise collaboration apps. One of the key ingredients to our ‘secret sauce recipe’ is humour – and here’s why it works:

Humour Reduces Anxiety
New technologies require a change to the way we work – and behavioural change is very tricky. Often people at the beginning of a coaching session are nervous and apprehensive. ‘I am not good with computers’ is something I hear often. So my first objective is to de-dramatise the situation and make people feel comfortable – using humour. Taking time to add some fun to your work is the height of generosity and people will silently thank you for it and support you.

Humour holds the attention – boring doesn’t
There’s nothing worse than a long-winded trainer droning on in a monotonous voice. I used to work for a large software company and regularly the senior developer would update us on the latest version. He had immense product knowledge and could have put a man on Mars. But for one hour, most days we suffered through an update session delivered in a dreary, sleep inducing voice that was the last word in dull. Everybody simply disconnected and multitasked. But the problem was that some of the detail was important, and we had to re-read the detail offline – so not the best use of valuable personal or company time!

Humour changes attitudes and behaviour
A typical discussion by the water cooler, in an organisation we work with, might be: “Have you joined one of those collaboration sessions? I just did and we had the best time – such a laugh, and it will really help me.”  With every customer, we see people pro-actively wanting to attend our sessions, because of conversations like this. Share the fun, it’s the best medicine ever.

Humour promotes understanding and retention of information
I attended a very serious school in France, and I remember vividly my history teacher and many of his lessons. Once he asked me in front of the class if  Archduke Franz Ferdinand had died of a heart failure. I answered no, of course not, saying he’d been shot. The teacher looked at me with laughter in his eyes and said: “So, his heart didn’t stop beating?” Everybody laughed. The result; I still remember this lesson, in detail, 30 years later.

Humour creates a positive attitude to the subject matter
We’ve all experienced times of fun and laughter in life, and we try to reproduce it again and again. This is actually how addictions start. Humour and fun in the first encounter with software or a service, can help free those same chemicals in the brain, and help drive acceptance, engagement and fast adoption.

Studies of connections between humour and learning indicate that the right amount of humour will increase attention and interest – helping to reinforce the message.

There are three things humour in coaching must have to be effective: It must be specific to the topic being delivered, it should be introduced at certain points to enhance learning, and most of all it must be respectful and appropriate for the audience. Get this right and you’ll have the team on your side.

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