Humor is about bringing people together, but way too often it pushes people apart in relationships. Why? Because people mistake laughing at someone for laughing with someone.
Think about it, true humor is about laughing along with another person. It is based on caring and empathy, and it involves others in the fun. When you make a joke at someone it is actually contemptuous, insensitive and exclusive.
This second type of humor destroys relationships.
What else defines good humor from bad? Amusing versus abusing. Amusement invites other people to join in and laugh whereas abuse offends people- they laugh usually because they feel uneasy. In good humor someone allows themselves to be the focus (the “butt” of a joke) while in hurtful humor a person has no choice in the matter. Healthy humor brings people together and is supportive while hurtful humor divides people and is sarcastic.
Too many people think sarcasm is funny, but it’s not; it is hurtful.
I’ve heard it said all humor contains a grain of truth, and good humor does because it pokes fun at human silliness and failings. Hurtful humor also has a grain of truth, but that truth is the contempt the jokester is expressing. It is toxic versus how healthy humor is nourishing and builds confidence.
Joel Goodman of the Humor Project in Saratoga Springs, NY wrote laughing with others goes for the jocular vein while laughing at others goes for the jugular vein.
Which do you do?
Today’s challenge: think seriously about humor (what an oxymoron!) How do you use humor? How do you allow others to use it around you? Is it respectful; do you laugh with or at others? How do you use it with your partner? Start being aware of humor in your life and make it a healing rather than hurtful interaction.
Share your experience with humor – good and bad- below, please!