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Hone Your Humor: A Leader's Secret Advantage

What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. – Proverb

People love to laugh because it feels good. A deep belly laugh does wonders to relationships and so does a smile on a friend’s face. Humor can change a person’s outlook and attitude toward life. When you look on the bright side of life, it reflects on your wholehearted approach to dealing with people and problems. It can even boost energy and reduce stress. This is why humor can be a leader’s secret advantage and power tool in difficult situations.

Laughter brings calm, grace, reduced stress and a new perspective to difficult situations. Humor soothes times of conflict, and children need to know they can get through these troubling times with a light-hearted approach.

There is actually a science to the study of laughter. In an article by Barbara Butler, Laughter: The Best Medicine, she states that Gelotology (from the Greek root gelos (to laugh), is an actual scientific term coined in 1964 by Dr. Edith Trager and Dr. W.F. Fry. Butler outlines some of the effects of laughter on our whole being. These effects are also important for children to know.

Humor really is good for you:

15 psychological and physiological benefits of humor (Berk, 2001).

8 psychological benefits of humor:

1. Reduces anxiety

2. Reduces tension

3. Reduces stress

4. Reduces depression

5. Reduces loneliness

6. Improves self-esteem

7. Restores hope and energy

8. Provides a sense of empowerment and control

7 physiological benefits of laughter:

1. Improves mental functioning

2. Exercises and relaxes muscles

3. Improves respiration

4. Stimulates circulation

5. Decreases stress hormones

6. Increases immune system defenses

7. Increases production of endorphins

Humor is also a great motivator. Laughing with others builds confidence, brings people together, and pokes fun at our common dilemmas and circumstances. In an article on business humor by Meredith O’Connor, she writes that humor is a great way to defuse difficult issues or deflect criticism.

“As for leadership,” says Suzanne Bates, “humor actually increases your stature as a leader. Think about it – if you can warm up the room and make people smile, you stand out,” says Bates. “You gain the respect of your friends, you appear confident and in control. Who looks like a leader? The one who is stiff and formal, or the one who can help the whole group loosen up?”

Ralph Emerson’s quote on life says it all:

To laugh often and love much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the approval of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty; To find the best in others; To give of one's self; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; This is to have succeeded.

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