Last month, my siblings and I were together for several days. Although there were serious moments, mostly during our discussions of our mother’s health, we laughed a lot as we usually do when we’re together. We laughed at each other’s stories and at old family jokes and sayings (as my brother said, sometimes the old jokes are the best).
It got me to thinking that one of the ties that binds people together is laughter. I won’t quote research on how laughter is good for us physically, mentally, and emotionally—you can find that out in a quick online search. But it’s not just what it does for us as individuals, it’s what it does for us as a group.
I’ve noticed over the years how laughter can mitigate stressful situations, both at home and at work. I admit to using it as a technique myself to lighten the mood of a meeting—I could almost say that the co-workers who laugh together, work well together. And with our family and friends, laughter—whether at a well-told joke, a funny story, or a situation—unites us in moments of fun and relaxation.
Think about it—once you’ve laughed with a person, doesn’t that increase your sense of connection to that person? Your desire to spend time with them? Your willingness to meet halfway to resolve an issue? When I think of my friends and co-workers, both past and present, I see how many of those good relationships had the factor of laughter. Just thinking about a card my co-worker Mandy gave me when we were in the midst of a tough project has made me laugh!Conversely, I hate seeing people use laughter as a weapon against others. It is so hurtful to take something that should be a uniting force and turn it into something that shames or embarrasses another person. Sure, that sometimes happens unwittingly—when we’re caught off guard or are being smart-asses without realizing the truth of a situation—but laughter should not be intentionally cruel.
I leave you with a story from a couple of months ago. My friend Catherine and I were discussing a restaurant meal from the previous night, at which one of our group had ordered veal. Said I, as I got up to clear the table, “I usually steer clear of veal.”
Honestly, the words were out of my mouth before I thought!