Who's Laughing Now?

Bob Goldman on

You know what they used to say: Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone.

Not today. Today, everybody is crying, and the world is not laughing with you; it's laughing at you.

Who can blame it?

Whether your workplace is a massive corner office or the crowded corner of a wobbly kitchen table, the future looks bleak, and the present isn't too hot either.

Who could see all this and laugh?

J. Stewart Black, that's who. The extremely serious Harvard Business Review recently published Black's "Laughter Will Keep Your Team Connected -- Even While You're Apart." In all honesty, I can't say it kept me in stitches, but the good professor does make sense. In a nutshell, Black believes that despite frequent Zoom meetings, not physically sharing workspace with co-workers has an isolating effect. Because we are "30 times more likely to laugh with others than to laugh alone," even highly populated virtual meetings are likely to be laugh-free.


(This is somewhat surprising since "research shows that 80% of what people laugh at is really not that funny." On Zoom or off, I can't think of a better description of a typical business meeting than "not that funny.")

So, what does make people laugh? "They laugh in order to laugh with others," in Black's opinion. It's like what happens when someone yawns; everybody yawns, especially if your manager is talking.

A lack of laughter can be a business problem. A chemical problem is the reason. When we laugh, our pituitary gland releases endorphins. As we learned from multiple episodes of "Temptation Island," endorphins "help relieve pain and trigger feelings of pleasure." So much pleasure that "studies show that people can endure 15% more pain simply by laughing for a few minutes beforehand."

This is major. It should be a legal requirement that managers start every meeting with a "Looney Tunes" cartoon. This should ameliorate some of the pain when the meeting goes "Looney Tunes."


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