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Sarcasm, Self-Deprecation, and Inside Jokes: A User’s Guide to Humor at Work

Self-deprecating humor

Self-deprecating humor can be extremely useful when neutralizing negative information about oneself.

However, it should by all means be avoided when talking about core competencies. Knowing when and how to use it can make all the difference during a job interview, for instance.

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Sarcasm, Self-Deprecation, and Inside Jokes: A User’s Guide to Humor at Work

Sarcasm, Self-Deprecation, and Inside Jokes: A User’s Guide to Humor at Work

https://hbr.org/2020/07/sarcasm-self-deprecation-and-inside-jokes-a-users-guide-to-humor-at-work

hbr.org

9

Key Ideas

Humor at work

Being funny can have both positive and negative consequences, in your personal as well as your professional life. And context is always important: when making a joke, for instance, you should definitely make sure the moment is appropriate for such a behavior.

Making the good jokes at the proper moment can help you become everybody's favorite at the workplace. However, making a bad joke can lead even to being fired: so make sure to choose your attitude appropriately.

Humor and its effects on the status

Humor and status have always been tightly linked: good leaders seem to often use humor in order to motivate their team members' actions. As individuals, we tend to prefer, researchers claim, jokes that make us laugh while feeling slightly uncomfortable.

Furthermore, we perceive the joke teller as a self-confident person, who could easily become a leader due to his or her courage to make such a joke. The key point here is that the joke should be appropriate and match the context.

Inside jokes

Making inside jokes usually shows how bounded a team or a group is: their jokes can understood the best by themselves.

However, the moment an outsider integrates the group, it is better to avoid the inside jokes, as this will most probably make him or her feel out of place.

Sarcasm and its use

Sarcasm has often been associated with creative thinking by numerous researchers.

Used when exchanging information with persons who know you well, it can easily lead to an improved communication level. On the contrary, when used in an exchange with persons you do not know well, can actually result in an unpleasant start. Therefore, better avoid it until it is safe to use.

Humor as a weapon

We have all found ourselves, at some point in our life, feeling uncomfortable due to a question that was asked to us.

The way we answer to these questions is what makes us stand out in fact: showing self-confidence and humor makes the people around us feel happier and trust us more.

Humor and feedbacks

When delivering negative feedbacks, a good way to do it is by engaging humor.

This has two main consequences: on one hand, it makes criticism more memorable and on the other, it softens negative feedbacks.

Humor as tool to cope with negative feelings

Whenever you deal with negative emotions, humor can prove extremely useful. It does not only ease your pain, but it can also
help you cope with tough situations overall. This is mainly because humor makes you focus less on the negative information. However, it is worth mentioning that only positive humor makes people feel better, while dark humor makes them feel even worse. Therefore, when thinking to use humor, take a second to decide on the proper one to engage with.

Making jokes properly

Making jokes properly is actually an art, which can easily lead to solving or creating issues. A particular situation is the leader's one: mastering the art of joking often results in more popularity and trust from the side of your employees.

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Humor benefits to marketing materials
  • Humor breaks down walls, shows personality a.k.a. shows a brand's human side.
  • Humor is attention-grabbing. It is naturally colorful and origin...
What humor is, at its worst
  • The wrong joke at the wrong time. It can make your brand look amateurish and unprofessional.
  • If people think you’re cracking jokes for the sole purpose of getting more attention, you’ll be seen as exploitative rather than funny.
  • Humor can cheapen certain ideas or make them be taken less seriously.
  • In some cases, humor can be outright offensive.
Key areas to create value with humor
  • Humorous touches can almost always improve a piece that is already valuable on its own.
  • If you’re sure a joke is going to land, it can make an effective advertisement. Test variations of the joke with a small audience first; that way, you can be sure the humor doesn’t cross a line.
  • Brand differentiation. For example, Oreo has long differentiated itself by offering a quirky, tongue-in-cheek voice across its social media platforms. This is especially effective in dry, or otherwise “boring” industries.
  • Personal branding. Elon Musk, for example, has separated himself from his companies Tesla and SpaceX by cracking jokes and roasting people on his own account.

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What Humor Is
What Humor Is

The three major approaches on what humor is and where it comes from:

  • The relief theory claims that laughter and humor are a way to discharge psychic energy.
Humor As A Life Skill
  • Reframing a negative event in an amusing light doesn't allow the negativity to trigger a depressive episode.
  • People who score highly in certain types of humor have better self-esteem, are more positive, have greater self-competency, more control over anxiety, and better performance in social situations.
  • Laughter can boost cardiovascular health and lower heart rates, blood pressure, and muscular tension.
Types Of Humor

Researchers described four types of humor:

  • Affiliative humor: this is the humor designed to enhance social bonds.
  • Self-enhancing humor: this is similar to having a humorous, playful view of life in general.
  • Aggressive humor: it happens when we are mocking others.
  • Self-defeating humor: this happens when we favor jokes that are self-deprecating.

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The humor effect defined
The humor effect is a psychological phenomenon that causes people to remember information better when that information is perceived as funny or humorous.

The use of humor enhances people’s

Benefits of incorporating humor into learning
  • Humorous information receives increased attention during the perception stage.
  • Improved encoding. Our brain gives preferential treatment to humorous information when it comes to storing it in our memory.
  • The use of humor serves as a distraction from negative emotions, such as anger or anxiety, that people might experience when processing certain information.
  • Reading or viewing something humorous has a positive and energizing effect.
  • Adding humor to the information that you are presenting can make it more interesting to others.
Different types of humor lead to different outcomes

The use of positive, nonaggressive humor is associated with 

  • improved learning outcomes, 
  • a relaxed learning environment, 
  • better student evaluations, 
  • an increased motivation to learn, 
  • improved information recall, 
  • an increased degree of student satisfaction throughout the learning process.

The use of negative or aggressive humor, especially if aimed at particular students, will produce the opposite effect.

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