How to Use Humor in Sensitive Situations

Seven Guidelines to Promote Healing
Article Text: “A sense of humor can help you overlook the unattractive, tolerate the unpleasant, cope with the unexpected, and smile through the unbearable,” says Reb Moshe Waldoks.
It is well documented that humor served to be a life line for numerous Holocaust survivors. The tradition continues. Waldoks, one of North America’s leading teachers of Jewish cultural, spiritual and ritual renewal, has co-edited 2 humor books, and was featured in a 1994 documentary about children of Holocaust survivors involved in humor.

Other sensitive situations, such as loss, crisis, illness, death, disaster, or disability also benefit from the proper use of humor. Not knowing how to respond to this type of humor can elevate the already high levels of stress and tension surrounding these circumstances. Inappropriate humor can be hurtful and isolate, which is opposite of the true intent.

Here are seven guidelines for the effective use of humor in sensitive situations:

#1) Understand that humor comes with a pecking order. It is the person who is adversely affected who sets the tone and grants permission for humor.

#2) It is generally acceptable for those who are close to the person, and have shared in their experience to join in and poke fun at the situation. Those who aren’t …shouldn’t.

#3) With a trauma or crisis, a period of time is often needed to allow for emotional distancing and healing to occur, before victims are able or ready to experience humor. Look for cues and test their mood to check for “play-mode.” If your attempt to use humor fails, stop.

#4) Humor, perceived to be an attempt to discount, distract, or ignore a situation which is distressing to the person experiencing it, generally won’t be well received without acknowledging the situation first.

#5) Always acknowledge the true feelings with empathy before introducing humor. That must have been embarrassing. I bet you felt disappointed. I wish your day was going smoother.

#6) Begin by using self-effacing humor to poke fun at the “situation,” and not at the person. (Reminds me of a time when…..) Propose a different perspective – One day we’ll laugh about this. Would this be funny if it happened to someone else? What if…… happened instead?

#7) Suggest an activity involving humor, such as watching a comedy.

Article Signature:
Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois, works with individuals and organizations who want to learn how to use the power of humor and the magic of laughter to handle the demands and pressures of work and home, adjust to constant change, deal with difficult people, cope with the unpredictable swift pace of life, product positive outcomes and have more fun.

Learning to laugh and “hangin’ on with humor” rescued Lois from the distress and despair surrounding her daily life, and initiated her recovery from a brain injury. Lois’ keynotes and trainings entertain, inspire and stimulate audiences to examine their own response to challenge and adversity. Hilarious personal stories, “Lessons from Lois” impart life-changing insights and equip participants with humor strategies and practical solutions to overcome the seriousness of their life challenges and feel happy.

Her universal message renews hope and motivates others to consistently do small things so they can achieve amazing results one day at a time.

©2012 Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois – Permission to reprint or repost this article is granted by including the above byline and Lois’ contact information.