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April 7, 2017

Being funny is no joke—it's a way to get ahead

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This story was updated on January 3, 2018.

    It turns out that cracking a few jokes with colleagues not only serves to lighten the mood, but also helps others listen more closely to weighty topics of conversation and can help build your professional reputation, according to a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

    Learn how to put Behavioral-Based Interviewing (BBI) into practice

    Over the course of 8 experiments, researchers surveyed hundreds of participants on what kinds of jokes are told by their colleagues and how those jokes influence their perception of their respective colleagues' status and position. In their study, the researchers note that, "when an individual makes a comment that is funny and appropriate, others view that individual as more confident and competent and are more likely to select them as a group leader."  

    Elaborating on the study's findings for Fast Company magazine, Michael Grothaus shares tips from writer and standup comedian Joe Bor for how you can be a hit by delivering a welcoming and humorous punchline during your next meeting or presentation.

    1. Don't copy jokes from your favorite comedian

    Thinking about mimicking a joke or trying hard to tailor them to your meeting or speech? Bor says this is not a good idea, mostly because it ignores that there are so many nuances that go into a successful joke such as small gestures, quirks, and timing. What works for your favorite comedian may not work for you.

    2. Avoid crickets by practicing the joke ahead of time

    Testing your joke before delivering it in front of an audience is a must, says Bor. The best way to figure out if it will actually garner laughs is to see if you laugh when saying it aloud to yourself. 

    3. Don't feel pressured to tell the joke right away

    While it can be exciting to have a great joke in mind, trying to be amusing as soon as you enter the meeting or walk onstage can be interpreted as "trying too hard," which Grothaus compares to a nervous tick.

    4. Read audience body language

    Be sensitive to clues in your audience's body language. Are they bored and disengaged? This can be a perfect opportunity to make a comment about the setting and lighten up their mood. Or try asking them a question, which can wake them up and help them feel acknowledged and embraced.

    5. Tell a short funny story instead

    After gauging your audience's mood, you might determine that a witty anecdote would be a better way to get them to smile. This can work well for people who don't yet have the self-assurance it takes to go for a true joke—with a punchline—in front of a crowd of people.

    Everyone has their hits and misses when it comes to humor at the office. It is definitely worth the try, because as Grothaus notes, "making people laugh can be a powerful tool for success" (Grothaus, Fast Company5/15).

    Learn how to put Behavioral-Based Interviewing (BBI) into practice

    Health care is in the midst of another labor shortage. Vacancies are on the rise and the national health care turnover rate is trending steadily upward. All too often, the reason employees leave is because they were a bad fit for the organization. That is why it is critical to hire candidates for organizational fit—not just technical skill.

    Join us on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 3 pm ET where you’ll learn strategies to cut through the complexity and take the steps needed to design, introduce, and sustain BBI at your organization.

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