Karyn Buxman

Catching Up With Karyn

Humor: What’s Holding You Back?


As I chatted with Brett in his office, several of his staff walked by the door and giggled. One of the young women leaned into the doorway and said, “Don’t be late for your appointment!” and winked.

He waved at her and laughed, saying, “Don’t worry. I’m not backing out!”

He looked at me and laughed. “It’s not what you’re probably thinking! A couple months ago I told my staff that if they could go an entire month without an injury or a safety violation, I’d shave my head! At first I was just joking around. I said it more out of exasperation than seriousness. But the staff pounced on the idea. Before you know it, for the first time in ages, they hit the target. As soon as that happened, they came to me and set up a date to ceremoniously shave my head! Between you and me, my first thought was ‘Oh crap! I’m going to look like a dork!’

“But then I realized I’d achieved two things: Most importantly, we met an important safety target. That’s huge. But the thing that I hadn’t expected was that this silly challenge brought my staff together in a way that I never could’ve anticipated. I may look like a goofball, but you know what? I’ll definitely do it again—once my hair grows back!”

As leaders, we’re not looking for opportunities to look foolish in front of those we lead. But as Einstein once said, to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results is insanity. We’re often called to step out of our comfort zone to achieve our desired outcomes.

When Brett took a risk and allowed himself to appear silly, he achieved his goal—and more! As a leader, it’s important to be able to stretch out of your comfort zone to achieve different and better results. Humor is a safe way to do just that. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

So stretch beyond your comfort zone today and try something a little silly. Maybe a little air guitar in the cafeteria? A rendition of Monty Python’s Silly Walk across the parking lot? Former President George Bush Sr. wears goofy socks. Sam Walton was willing to dance down Wall Street in a hula skirt. He and his company laughed all the way to the bank.

Leadership involves calculated risks. Humor, when practiced without purpose, can involve a degree of risk. But when used strategically, humor will help you achieve incredible results.

©2016, Karyn Buxman. All rights reserved. Reprints welcome so long as all links the byline are made live.

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.
She can also be reached via:

Karyn@KarynBuxman.com
Twitter: @KarynBuxman
Facebook: FB.com/KarynBuxmanSpeaks
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/KarynBuxman
Candy-grams: 1465 C St. #3318 SD, CA 92101
Smoke signals: avoid when prohibited by fire season!

Posted in: Humor, Leadership

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Funny Means Money: Humor and Your Marketing Message


A bunch of guys are playing football in a park. The ball is hiked. The quarterback steps back to throw. The receiver—an old woman!—shuffles down the field. Ninety-year-old comedic actress Betty White nearly catches the ball, but suddenly she’s brutally tackled. One of her teammates teases, “Hey man, you’re playing like Betty White out there!” She’s given a Snickers Bar, which transforms her back into his proper male form. The tag line: “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

It became one of the most talked-about commercials in Super Bowl history.

Ask folks if they watch the Super Bowl and you’ll often hear, “I just watch the game for the commercials.” People remember and talk about these ads! Especially the funny ones.

This is why leaders at companies like Frito-Lay, PepsiCo, Allstate Insurance, Reebok, McDonald’s and Budweiser pay $4.5 million for 30-second spots, most of which are humorous. Why do they do this? Because they understand that FUNNY MEANS MONEY.

According to Mark Levitt, professor of marketing at NYU, “People will pay more attention to a humorous commercial than a factual one, because humor undercuts logic, appeals to the emotions, and opens people to be influenced.” When we find something funny, our level of alertness goes up and we retain information better. This, in turn, improves brand recognition and sales.

Just ask the folks at Taco Bell. When a tiny Chihuahua uttered the words, “Yo Quiero Taco Bell,” the company saw a substantial rise in sales. Not only that, their mascot’s phrase became part of the nation’s lexicon. The Aflac duck raised brand awareness from 12% to 90%. And Geico’s Gecko Campaign played a major role in their emergence as one of the leading auto insurers in the United States.

Be strategic. Check out funny commercials on YouTube and think about what makes them work. Then look at your organization or department and start writing down how you could weave some humor into your messages. Don’t be afraid of being silly—after all, if talking geckos, ducks, and Chihuahuas can be successful, you can afford to be playful.

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.

She can also be reached via:

Karyn@KarynBuxman.com

Twitter: @KarynBuxman

Facebook: FB.com/KarynBuxmanSpeaks

LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/KarynBuxman

Candy-grams: 1465 C St. #3318 SD, CA 92101

Smoke signals: avoid when prohibited by fire season!

Posted in: Business, Humor, Leadership

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Defusing Difficult Conversations

professional speaker
It was 1984, and the second presidential debate between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan was underway. After the first debate, critics observed that Reagan looked tired, and they wondered if he might be too old for the job. Understanding how this precarious issue could affect the outcome of the debate—and the election—Reagan’s team went to work and prepared his response.

Sure enough, shortly after the debate commenced, a reporter asked Reagan, “Given the fact that you are already the oldest president in U.S. history, would you really be able to function should a crisis arise?”

Reagan assured the reporter that he’d be perfectly capable of dealing with any situation at hand—and then he quipped—”I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

When the laughter died down, so did the question of Reagan’s age. And he was elected president for a second term.

When you’re engaged in a difficult conversation, people often pose what author Malcolm Kushner calls a “Hostile Question.” The purpose of their question isn’t really to gain information, but to challenge you, embarrass you, make you express frustration, and put you in a negative light. You might hear questions like, “Who do you think you are?!” or “Whose budget is this coming out of?!”

You have numerous ways to approach the situation. You can be serious. You can debate. You can take the situation elsewhere. You can walk away. You can BS your way out. Or you can defuse the situation with humor. All of these approaches can succeed, but determining the right choice at the right time requires some discernment on your part.

Used strategically, humor can alter the hierarchy, placing you in a more powerful position. It is a sign of confidence, and a way of taking charge. The goal is not to get the other person laughing so hard that you can escape unnoticed, but to defuse tension, establish more control, and then guide the conversation in the direction that you want.

For leaders, humor can make people more receptive to your messages, build good relationships with employees, and build a more positive and productive corporate culture. For salespeople, humor can break the ice, ease tension, enhance communications, differentiate you from your competitors, and make you more memorable.

Set yourself apart by being strategic with your humor. Think back to a time when you were faced with hostile questions, particularly ones you might face again. Write down as many of these questions as you can think of. Then select one and begin creating a list of humorous responses. Come up with half a dozen or more. I can tell you from experience that the first few will probably be the funniest—but also the most perilous. (The purpose here is to defuse the bomb, not light the fuse!)

For leaders, your goal is not to get into a power struggle, but to reach a resolution. If you practice, you’ll find a response that will placate the situation and allow you to move the conversation in a more productive direction.

For salespeople, your goal is not to be a wise-ass, but to lessen tension and lighten the mood.

It was 1984, and the second presidential debate between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan was underway. After the first debate, critics observed that Reagan looked tired, and they wondered if he might be too old for the job. Understanding how this precarious issue could affect the outcome of the debate—and the election—Reagan’s team went to work and prepared his response.

Sure enough, shortly after the debate commenced, a reporter asked Reagan, “Given the fact that you are already the oldest president in U.S. history, would you really be able to function should a crisis arise?”

Reagan assured the reporter that he’d be perfectly capable of dealing with any situation at hand—and then he quipped—”I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

When the laughter died down, so did the question of Reagan’s age. And he was elected president for a second term.

When you’re engaged in a difficult conversation, people often pose what author Malcolm Kushner calls a “Hostile Question.” The purpose of their question isn’t really to gain information, but to challenge you, embarrass you, make you express frustration, and put you in a negative light. You might hear questions like, “Who do you think you are?!” or “Whose budget is this coming out of?!”

You have numerous ways to approach the situation. You can be serious. You can debate. You can take the situation elsewhere. You can walk away. You can BS your way out. Or you can defuse the situation with humor. All of these approaches can succeed, but determining the right choice at the right time requires some discernment on your part.

Used strategically, humor can alter the hierarchy, placing you in a more powerful position. It is a sign of confidence, and a way of taking charge. The goal is not to get the other person laughing so hard that you can escape unnoticed, but to defuse tension, establish more control, and then guide the conversation in the direction that you want.

For leaders, humor can make people more receptive to your messages, build good relationships with employees, and build a more positive and productive corporate culture. For salespeople, humor can break the ice, ease tension, enhance communications, differentiate you from your competitors, and make you more memorable.

Set yourself apart by being strategic with your humor. Think back to a time when you were faced with hostile questions, particularly ones you might face again. Write down as many of these questions as you can think of. Then select one and begin creating a list of humorous responses. Come up with half a dozen or more. I can tell you from experience that the first few will probably be the funniest—but also the most perilous. (The purpose here is to defuse the bomb, not light the fuse!)

For leaders, your goal is not to get into a power struggle, but to reach a resolution. If you practice, you’ll find a response that will placate the situation and allow you to move the conversation in a more productive direction.

For salespeople, your goal is not to be a wise-ass, but to lessen tension and lighten the mood.

Whether you’re dealing with irritable staff, cranky customers or obstinate teenagers—humor is a powerful means of defusing difficult conversations.

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.

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Humor as a Negotiation Tool—or—How Humor Saved the World

OCTOBER 1962 — The world held its breath as America and Russia went to the brink, with nuclear weapons at the ready. Russia was installing nuclear missiles in Cuba—a mere 90 miles from the Florida coast. The 13-day crisis played-out in real time on TV around the world.

As American and Soviet delegates came together to negotiate, tensions were high, and they soon became deadlocked. And then…a Russian delegate told a joke: “What is the difference between Capitalism and Communism? In Capitalism, man exploits man. In Communism, it is the other way around.”

Delegates on both sides laughed, and this created a bond among all of them. (Hey, ya gotta start somewhere!) With the tension eased for the moment, talks resumed, and eventually a deal was struck that avoided blowing up the planet—no small feat!

Whether you’re negotiating for world peace or for which movie to go to, humor can play a crucial role in your success.

According to a recent study on business negotiations, humor has numerous functions in the negotiation process. It can put the negotiators at ease; it can introduce a difficult issue; it can foster togetherness and team spirit; it can help the other negotiator save face; and it can be a way of being cooperative in spite of disagreement.

Additional studies show that if you can inject humor into your negotiations, you’re more likely to get what you’re negotiating for.

Once when I was negotiating with a potential client over the phone, it became obvious that budget was a delicate topic. I could feel the tension rising, and when he posed the question: “How much is this going to cost me?” I wanted to reduce the tension.

I paused and said, “Are you sitting down??” He laughed, and from that point, the conversation about money went smoothly.

Those four little words, spoken in just the right tone of voice, have helped me close dozens of deals over the years.

Think strategically. Who do you negotiate with? It might be with a colleague, a competitor, a customer, an employee, a boss, a colleague or even a family member. (You do understand, I hope, that getting a child to go to bed is not something that you command, but rather something you negotiate. Some of those rugrats make Johnnie Cochran look like an amateur. And don’t even get me started on teenagers!)

What are you negotiating for? Examine it and look for an opportunity to weave in a little humor—like a humorous and relevant anecdote, a funny comment or gesture. You probably want to start with something whimsical. Something short. Something that relates to the situation at hand. Negotiations are often important and intense, so use humor wisely, cautiously and professionally. (No “sharp jabs” like Don Rickles is famous for!)

The ability to successfully negotiate is a helpful skill for everyone, but it’s an essential tool for anyone who plans to sell or lead. You may not be called upon to save the world from nuclear war—but I guarantee that sometime soon you will be called upon to save a deal, or make the sale, or advance your agenda in some manner. Humor, used strategically, can make you a more powerful and effective negotiator.

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.

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“Planned Spontaneity”

liscarf
The travel gods smiled upon me. My bag and I both arrived at the same airport at the same time, traffic to the hotel zoomed along, and the line for hotel check-in was shorter than the TSA’s.

As I made my way to my room, I observed this hotel’s unique (and somewhat goth) décor: elegant, comfortable… and dark. Dark! Dark! Dark! The walls were black, the furniture was black, I even think the water was black—but I couldn’t tell because, well, it was so DARK. (And I’ll let you guess what color the ballroom floor and the staging were…)

The meeting began and halfway through my presentation, I stepped forward to make a dramatic point…and walked right off the front of the stage. (Picture Wile E. Coyote stepping off a cliff.)

As you might have guessed, the black carpet and the black stage floor merged visually, leaving no hint that there was a drop-off there. The audience gasped, wondering (in the dark) if I was injured; then they held their collective breath. While the stage was only four feet high, the fall seemed to last forever. Thoughts raced through my mind. Would I bust my butt? Break my neck? End-up paralyzed? Is there a lawyer in the house?

Wham! I landed flat on my back. The wind was knocked out of me, and for several moments I was unable to breathe—my mouth gaped open and closed like a fish out of water. The audience sat in stunned silence.

Being a long-time speaker, I’d maintained a death-grip on the hand-held microphone. And then I pulled out the “saver-line” that I had tucked neatly away in the back of my mind for just such an (unlikely) occasion. I sat up, looked at the audience and said, “And now I’ll take questions from the floor.”

The audience laughed with relief and applauded as I climbed back up onto the stage. I refused to let them see how badly I’d bruised my ego—and my bottom! Some members of the audience thought I’d actually done it on purpose! (“Oh, she’s so clever!”) Good grief! But like a magician who never divulges “how it was done,” I didn’t tell anyone that it was “planned spontaneity” that saved my…butt.

Planned spontaneity is a great little technique for sales professionals. Hold on, hold on—I can hear several of you in the back, murmuring, “I don’t need any planned spontaneity! I’m witty, I’m quick, and I perform best under pressure.” Hey, good for you. Now get over yourself and take a tip from one of my teachers in the world of Improv: “You need to be sharp and quick to perform Improv, but you also need to practice. Practice, practice, practice. Only a fool goes up on stage armed only with his ‘natural born’ talents. Yes, it’s possible to ‘get by’ for a while. But if you want long-term success, you might want to follow in the footsteps of the greats who are brilliant—folks like Carol Burnett, Will Ferrell, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, and Chevy Chase.”

A novice salesperson often lives on the edge by being only marginally prepared. A professional salesperson expects the unexpected. You prepare responses for sales resistance, right? You’ll be doing yourself a big favor if you also prepare for unlikely, and even outlandish, situations.

Quick, answer each of these questions. You’ve got two seconds to respond. If you delay any longer you’ll get the gong. Ready? Go!

You’ve prepared meticulously for the 30-minute slot your prospect has allotted you for your sales presentation. As you walk into their boardroom your contact whispers to you that your time has been cut to 10 minutes. Now what?

  • You’re addressing a ballroom full of potential clients and the sound system goes down. What do you say?
  • You suddenly get the hiccups.
  • Your PowerPoint goes down.
  • Aliens land in the client’s atrium.

When the unexpected happens or—heaven forbid!—you make a mistake, humor can be the saving grace. I’m not saying you should just laugh off a serious mistake. However, when used mindfully, humor will decrease the tension, acknowledge the error, and provide some comic relief. Done well, it can also show others that you have the ability to laugh at yourself. The manner in which you respond may actually strengthen your relationship with that prospective client.

If you listen carefully to successful comics and politicians, you’ll begin to notice the saver-lines they pull out after a snafu. They’ve thought ahead and crafted a clever response (probably several responses) should the need arise.

*  *  *

Try this: Start writing a list of the possible—and the probable—mistakes, glitches, problems, interruptions or Freudian slips you might experience. Then write a list of possible comebacks. (Capture every idea. Later on you’ll edit-out the lines that are really funny, but are inappropriate to use. [Save those for your stand-up act!])

As you develop your own potential saver-lines, pair them with your possible blunders. Now practice them. Aloud! Why? Because the goal is to get them well-planted into your subconscious mind. Practicing in your head is good, but practicing aloud is great. By saying the words aloud, you are literally putting words in your mouth! And when you actually say the words, and hear yourself saying them, you are creating more connections, and stronger connections, between your neurons. So when the need arises, your response will come of its own accord, and appear to be spontaneous.

Mistakes happen. As a sales professional, you can plan ahead and use humor strategically to acknowledge a problem and bounce right back.

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman is a pioneer in the emerging field of Applied Humor. Her mission: to improve global health, global business and global peace through humor—and heal the humor impaired. Practice strategic humor consistently—sign up for her free ezine, LevityWorks, at KarynBuxman.com

She can also be reached via:

Karyn@KarynBuxman.com

Twitter: @KarynBuxman

Facebook: FB.com/KarynBuxmanSpeaks

LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/KarynBuxman

Candy-grams: 1465 C St. #3318 SD, CA 92101

Smoke signals: avoid when prohibited by fire season

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Leadership: “Sarcasm—Handle with Care”

sarcasm
“I’m trying to imagine you with a personality.”

“This isn’t an office. It’s Hell with fluorescent lighting.”

“Don’t bother me. I’m livin’ the dream.”

Sarcasm. Gotta love it, don’t ya? Used for comic effect and dry criticism throughout the ages—by us common folks and by the famous.

Oscar Wilde observed: “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”

Stephen Bishop said: “I feel so miserable without you, it’s almost like having you here.”

Mark Twain once quipped: “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

Sarcasm. You hear it nearly every day, from all kinds of people, in all kinds of situations.

[Yeah, we all know—or think we know—exactly what sarcasm is. But for the meticulous among you, here’s the precise definition, according to Webster’s Dictionary: “the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say—especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny.”]

Sometimes sarcasm works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sarcasm does work when it bonds like-minded people together, and when it produces just the right level of chuckle. Sarcasm doesn’t work when it’s wielded like a weapon—when it’s used to cut someone down to size, especially when they’re not in a position to defend themselves.

Leaders need to learn how and when to employ sarcasm, and also how to recognize and deal with it when your employees/followers use it.

Among equals/friends/insiders sarcasm is often used as friendly jousting. It can be an entertaining and intellectually stimulating exercise in bantering. But when directed at strangers/outsiders/visitors sarcasm is cruel and unfair—producing embarrassment, anger and resentment. (Not good things to stir-up in your people!)

Sarcasm used well is like fencing: Battling as a friendly sport. Sarcasm used poorly is like aggressive fighting with a sharpened blade.

Because sarcasm can definitely cause harm, hurt feelings, and even damage someone’s standing in the group, many leaders simply ban sarcasm (and often any kind of humor) from the workplace. This is not a good idea for two reasons:

(1)  It’s actually impossible to stop people from using humor. You can censor it, but you’ll only drive it underground—where it can backfire on you as it subverts your authority. (Also, humor is hard-wired into the human brain. You literally can’t stop humor from arising spontaneously).

(2)  Humor—including sarcasm—can be a tremendously positive force among people and inside organizations. Humor can bond people, it can ease tensions, it can enhance communication and it has been shown to enhance the bottom line.

And here are some facts from the scientists who study such stuff: positive humor can produce a dopamine hit which leads to feel-good sensations throughout the body. But hostile humor can evoke stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin, which lead to inflammatory responses throughout the body that exacerbate illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

One insight that eludes many users of sarcasm is that cruel sarcasm reflects poorly on them. Bystanders are likely to judge them as boorish and vicious. Not an image that many leaders want to project!

Wise leaders use humor—including sarcasm—in an intentional and strategic manner. It’s a subtle skill. But then, great leaders know how to wield a host of tools to help them direct human behavior.

As a neurohumorist—one who studies the intersection of humor and the brain—I utilize many different forms of humor. But sarcasm? Me? Never!

© 2016, Karyn Buxman. All rights reserved.  Reprints welcome so long as the article and byline are reprinted intact and all links made live.

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman is a pioneer in the emerging field of Applied Humor. Her mission: to improve global health, global business and global peace through humor—and heal the humor impaired. Practice humor consistently—sign up for her free ezine, LevityWorks, at KarynBuxman.com.

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Replacing Your Stress Habit: Jest for Stress

“Shoot! Dang!” cried my husband. (Okay, so those weren’t his exact words. Hey, I want to keep this article rated PG-13!)

His knuckles whitened around the steering wheel, his jaw tensed, his muscles stiffened. “Look at this frakkin’ traffic.” (Note: He actually did use the word “frakkin’.”)

The sight of a traffic jam sent him immediately into a stress response. But I reminded him that we had plenty of time to get to our destination, we had plenty of gas, we had food and drink in the car (and neither of us was in need of a bathroom break!). So rather than fume about traffic I pulled out my phone, and played several episodes of a show that we both find hysterical (Cabin Pressure, a BBC radio sitcom, starring Benedict Cumberbatch). And we relaxed and laughed our way to our destination.

Stress can be habit-forming. We see a stimulus (a traffic jam, a virus alert on our computer, that neighbor who rambles on incessantly) and we respond with irritability, muscle tension, anxiety, loss of focus, and the urge to strangle some jerk who desperately deserves it.

Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl once said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.” So often, when challenges pop up, we fly into an automatic response. But we do have a choice. There are lots of interventions you can initiate in that space between stimulus and response. One of the easiest and most effective choices is humor. Rather than experience a stress habit, create a humor habit.

The trick is having humor easily available so that accessing it is a no-brainer. Here are three quick techniques for the next time you feel stress coming on. Pick one!

  1. Use your smartphone. Depending on the time you have, you can access a funny podcast (10-60 minutes), a funny video (30 seconds to 10 minutes), or funny memes through apps like Tumbler, iFunny, and Pinterest (mere seconds).
  1. Use another person. Ask a colleague, a friend, or a customer to share something funny with you: A funny story, a joke, an embarrassing moment. It doesn’t have to be wet-your-pants funny. You’re just going for a quick reframe of your mindset, from stress to jest.
  1. Use your mind. Have some go-to images that bring a smile to your face just thinking about them:

The look of delight on your toddler’s face when she first met your new puppy. Your husband on the dance floor trying—hilariously—to disco dance like John Travolta. Kramer bumbling his way into Seinfeld’s apartment. Tapping into a quick humorous memory can change your body chemistry—and your day—almost instantly.

And here’s one last tip: You’ll get the maximum benefit from humor when you use it consistently. You can actually rewire your brain—so practice some kind of humor every day!

Stress is always going to be part of our lives, but it doesn’t have to dominate our daily lives. Exchange your stress habit for a humor habit.

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman is a pioneer in the emerging field of Applied Humor. Her mission: to improve global health, global business and global peace through humor—and heal the humor impaired. Practice humor consistently—sign up for her free ezine, LevityWorks, at http://www.KarynBuxman.com

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I Knew That! (Applied Humor: Knowing versus Doing)

“To know and not to do is not to know.” Chinese Proverb

John glanced quickly over his shoulder as he was driving me to my speaking venue and asked, “So you’re the speaker? What do you speak about?”

Ah! Did he know that this is a professional speaker’s favorite question?! “My body of work for the last 25 years has been the study of humor’s relationship to profitability and health. This afternoon I’m going to share how to use humor as a competitive business edge,” I explained, delighted to share my passion with him.

I could see John’s smiling eyes in the rearview mirror. “Did you know that humor is really, really good for you?” he asked in all sincerity. (Yes, I knew that!) John then went on to tell me a somewhat fuzzy version of Norman Cousins overcoming his life-threatening illness by watching funny movies. It was fun to hear someone else extol on the benefits of humor—and I was encouraged that the word was getting out to the general public that humor has practical benefits.

As I got out of the car and headed toward my meeting, I thought about what John said. Everyone knows humor makes us feel better. Everyone knows it’s enjoyable. Everyone knows that “it’s good for us.” So making humor part of our daily repertoire should simply be common sense, right? But as integrative neuroscientist Dr. Heidi Hanna points out, “Common sense is not common practice.”

Just because we know something is beneficial doesn’t mean we act on that knowledge. I know eating a low-calorie-high-fiber kale salad instead of a piping hot slice of delicious pepperoni and sausage pizza would be better for my waistline—but my belt size can attest to the fact that I don’t act on that knowledge—at least not consistently! My inconsistent actions keep me from experiencing benefits I know to be true.

Just because you know humor can enhance your leadership skills, or give you a competitive edge in sales, or improve your health doesn’t mean that you’re actually experiencing any of these benefits. The truth is that the vast majority of people allow humor to happen by chance, rather than by choice. They stumble across something that makes them laugh in the midst of their busy day and then hurry on—places to go, people to meet. The good news is when you let humor happen by chance, you can still experience some benefits. But when you purposefully implement humor by choicenow you can really leverage the advantages and reap tremendous rewards.

Exercising on an occasional basis is better than no exercise at all, but you really gain the most results when you exercise consistently. It’s similar with humor. When you stumble across humor occasionally, it can elevate your mood, it can decrease your muscle tension, and it may even boost your immune system a bit. But to truly build your resilience, improve your creativity, increase your likability, enhance your communication skills, and reap other additional benefits, it’s best to practice humor consistently—every day.

Let’s say you make a commitment to run a 10K marathon. Would you wait until the day before the race to start working out at the gym? Only if you want to set yourself up for a huge fail! Instead you’d work out on a regular basis—increasing your strength and your stamina. Your commitment to run the race would be futile if you didn’t consistently prepare for it. Business development expert Mark Leblanc once told me, “Consistency trumps commitment every time.” If you want to experience humor as a competitive advantage, then set yourself up to succeed by practicing a bit of humor everyday.

There are many ways to practice humor on a regular basis. Below are three ideas. Pick one and practice it consistently over the next 21 days. (You get extra credit for keeping track of your experiences in a journal.) I promise you that you will begin to see a difference not only in yourself, but also in those around you.

  1. Seek humor from one other person. This can be a customer, a colleague, a friend or a family member. Ask them to share a joke, a funny story, or an embarrassing moment they can now laugh about.
  2. Set a goal to discover one humorous incident in your day. This could be something you read, something you hear, or something that you experience.
  3. Watch one funny video that tickles your funny bone. This might be a gif on your smart phone, a YouTube clip on your computer, or a sitcom on your TV.

Set yourself apart and ahead of the crowd. Give yourself a competitive edge. Practice humor not by chance, but by choice—Humor is power!

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman is a pioneer in the emerging field of Applied Humor. Her mission: to improve global health, global business and global peace through humor—and heal the humor impaired. Practice humor consistently—sign up for her free ezine, LevityWorks, at KarynBuxman.com

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Grati-texts & Grati-tweets: High Tech AND High Touch

My alarm clock didn’t go off. Someone had already used up all the hot water before I could take my shower. We’d run out of coffee (gasp!). And to top it all off… my “fat pants” were feeling a bit snug—aaaaaauuuuggghhhhhh! This was shaping up to be a miserable morning. I heard my phone chime and my heart skipped a beat. Had I gotten my times mixed—was I late for work? I snatched my phone off the table and saw the text:

“I just wanted you remind you how amazing you are and how grateful I am that you’re in my life.”

My eyes teared up and my heart swelled. My sister, a busy physician three time zones away, had taken 30 seconds out of her busy schedule and had changed the course of my entire day.

Studies show that one way of increasing your happiness set-point is to practice being grateful. Studies vary slightly in their findings, but in a nutshell, writing down three things daily will raise your level of happiness more than writing down a list of items you’re grateful for weekly. Sharing your gratitude or appreciation with another person boosts your happiness level even more.

And get this! In one study, people who focused on gratitude rather than hassles felt more optimistic about their future, felt better about their lives and even did an average of 1.5 more hours of exercise a week. (So I can be happier and shed the fat pants!)

In this fast-paced, high-tech world, it may seem unrealistic to try to squeeze in one more task on your to-do list. Instead of switching from high-tech to high-touch, you can be high-tech AND high-touch! Take 30 seconds to practice “Grati-texting.” Think of someone who has made a real difference in your life, and shoot them a text telling them so.

Being happier has lots of benefits that go beyond just feeling better. You can be healthier, more creative, more productive, and people may find you more attractive! (No joke!)

Here are 7 quick High-Tech AND Hi-Touch ways to express your gratitude:

  1. Whip out your phone and send a Grati-text (a text message that expresses gratitude): Tell someone how much you appreciate them and why.
  2. Express your gratitude in what I call a Grati-tweet (a Tweet that expresses gratitude): 140 characters or less of your appreciation via Twitter.
  3. Use your phone to video your thanks in less than 30 seconds. Then email, text it or post it via your social media.
  4. Find or create a meme that expresses your sentiments and share it online.
  5. Send an e-card to someone that says “I appreciate you.” (There are tons of fun AND free resources. One of my favorites is Just Wink—funny [edgy] and you can personalize with photos, comments and your signature.)
  6. Leave a short voicemail for that special someone letting them know how amazing they are.
  7. Explore Fiverr for a plethora of playful and creative ways to express your gratitude. For $5 someone will create a comic expressing your thanks, sing a song of appreciation, insert your sentiments into an Easter Egg, create an animated whiteboard video of appreciation—stretch your imagination and have fun with this!

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman knows the key to experiencing real results from strategic humor is consistency. For help in establishing your humor habit, sign up for her free ezine, LevityWorks, at KarynBuxman.com

Posted in: Humor

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Leadership and Humor: Jolly Good!

As I began the interview for my podcast, I looked at his boyish grin and into his playful eyes. “My guest today is Chade-Meng Tan, and he’ll be sharing his insights on leading with levity.”

Meng got a puzzled look on his face and said, “Levity? Oh, I thought we’d be talking about levitation. I guess I’ll have to throw out my notes!”

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “This might be a disaster!”

Chade-Meng Tan then tipped back his head and laughed. Perhaps I should mention that Meng is known as Google’s Jolly Good Fellow. “Leaders need to establish trust—and humor is one way of establishing trust,” he said.

Recently retired from Google (at age 45), Meng is an award-winning engineer, bestselling author, TED talk presenter (check out his TED talk  where he shares his insight: “Compassion Is Fun”), and Co-chair of One Billion Acts of Peace, which has been nominated seven times for the Noble Peace Prize. As a leader, he demonstrates that you can use humor not only to lead in your workplace or organization, but on a global scale.

In your pursuit of better leadership skills you’ve collected an extensive set of tools: Focus. Vision. Values. Strategy. Tactics. Emotional intelligence. Goal-setting. Decision-making. Storytelling. Mentoring. Humor.

Humor??!

I’ve noticed that MBA programs rarely teach humor. And business books don’t extoll the benefits of humor in the corporate—or any organizational—setting. And that’s too bad, because humor is a tool that enhances many of the other leadership tools that you use. Humor enhances communication; bonds teams; improves retention; increases productivity; and improves profitability.

The effectiveness of humor used to be anecdotal. But now it’s a scientifically proven fact that humor has physiological, psychological, and social benefits. Over the past several decades neuroscientists, psychologists, social scientists, and integrative scientists have been ferreting out the secrets of humor.

Research from Wharton, MIT, and London Business School reveal the practical benefits of humor in the workplace. Even “The Harvard Business Review” acknowledges that humor is an important leadership skill.

As a leader, you need a variety of tools that will help you better guide, direct, and inspire others: Your overall temperament and personal style; the manner in which you give guidance, instructions and reprimands; your ability to adapt your techniques to each person and each team you’re addressing (“emotional intelligence,” anyone?!); the tone of your voice; the different styles of communications for one-on-one interactions, for small group meetings, and for large audience situations; your flexibility, your writing style; your confidence; your level of expertise, and—your use of humor.

A good leader knows that when humor happens by chance, positive things can happen. But a great leader knows that humor applied with purpose, intention and mindfulness can change the world.

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman’s mission in life is to enhance global business, improve global health, and achieve global peace through applied humor. Check out samples of her online leadership program at www.Avanoo.com/KarynBuxman and check out her newest book Lead With Levity.

Posted in: Business, Humor, Leadership

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