Thursday, November 11, 2010

How To Use Humor To Enlighten

As always when I'm at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, I find myself hanging around with the delightful Marcia Connor of the Altimeter Group. In between gossiping about industry scandals and debating the best color for Eileen Fisher slacks, Marcia shared a powerful insight.

It's no secret that I enjoy making people laugh, especially when I give a talk. But I've wondered if my urge to be funny helps or hinders getting my point across. Marcia, who started her career as a neuroscience researcher, provided a nuanced and scientific answer:

"Laughter is a higher-level brain function. When people laugh, it activates their brain and primes them for learning and change. If you want to get the most out of being funny, take advantage of laughter by immediately following up with your key points. You'll never have a better chance to teach, persuade, or enlighten."


Foobarista said...

I'm coming to believe that humor is overrated. As often as not, it's used to reinforce prejudices and close people to "uncool" alternatives as anything else.

You see this often with political humor, which is often anything but enlightening.

Chris said...

Humor is a powerful weapon--it can be used for good and ill.

Jason said...

The great thing about humor is if you can get someone to laugh they have emotionally accepted something you have said or done. When they laugh their guard is lowered and they are more likely to offer non critical evaluation of other statements.