Friends: The humour of the sitcom

Over the ten series, the sitcom about a group of 20- and 30-somethings in New York attracted scholarly analysis.

One of the striking things about Friends was the humour that depended on clever conversational devices. The scriptwriters used the unexpected in conversation.

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The conversational rules for a successful invitation depend on:

  • who we're asking,
  • what kind of relationship we have
  • what's at stake
  • how important an acceptance is.

The preferred response to a request is acceptance, and the best way to ensure a positive result is to pose a leading question like, "What are you up to this evening?" This helps those we're talking to avoid having to give negative responses.

Friends' scriptwriters breached these rules, which cause audiences to laugh.

Friends scriptwriters methods for creating laughter make the often hidden conventions of language-use visible.

In one episode, an invitation is turned down, but without giving an expected reason. Joey asks Phoebe if she'd like to help build furniture. Phoebe opens with a negative reply but then does the surprising. "Ohh! I wish I could, but I don't want to." And the audience erupts in laughter.

Creating humour this way, as well as through misunderstandings, can keep us laughing.

Speaking up in meetings

Group meetings may feel intimidating. Speaking up in meetings is an opportunity to impact developing ideas, but it can also show up your ignorance in front of a large group.

But there are real advantages to speaking up.

  • You may influence ongoing events.
  • Your comments may prompt new ideas in your colleagues.
  • Speaking up gives other people a chance to get to know how you think.

The anxiety you feel before you say something in a meeting can cause you to back out altogether.

Therefore, try not to overthink it. When the point you want to discuss comes up on the agenda, immediately commit to contributing.

Resist the urge to step up and show off your thoughts until you understand what the group is doing.

The ideas that people listen to are spoken by people who connect what they say to the group's needs. Your aim when you contribute is to connect the concerns of the people.

The fear of speaking out is far worse than actually speaking in a meeting. That worst-case scenario you fear is not really going to happen.

What might happen if you speak out in a meeting ineffectively is that nobody will pay attention and forget you said anything.

Think about the point you want to make in the meeting. Write down a sentence or two that highlights your main point or two.

While it seems strange to prepare for a comment, speaking in front of a group can be stressful. The amount of information you can hold in your mind decrease as your anxiety increase. That means you cannot count on getting the rights words out if you are not used to speaking in a meeting. Preparing will help to speak well.

Benefits of Letter Writing
  • You already know who you want to address your writing to. This helps release unexplored emotions towards this person and dig deeper into your inner self.
  • You cannot be interrupted. You focus on what you want to say without the fear of judgment, any kind of disturbance, and you're conscious of what you're writing down.
  • It may help you heal unresolved feelings and conflicts with your addressee. Your audience will be able to feel the intimacy you want to present.

In a 1986 paper, research showed that teachers gave students typically 1 second or less to reply to a question, while the threshold for positive effects turns out to be 2.7 seconds.

  • Giving students more time to respond changed students' attitudes and behavior, and increased the number of questions and unprompted contributions by students.
  • Deliberately increasing wait times also contributes positively to the teacher's attitudes and behavior by forming more cohesive and constructive development of ideas, probing for clarification of elaboration, and encouraging fair expectations across a group of students.

There is evidence that the performance of teams in solving intellectual problems is linked with well-timed talk.

A 1998 study found that groups generally outperformed individuals by listening to and questioning each other's contributions.

There is a difference between talking to and talking with a child.

The developmental gain in language and literacy skills has more to do with the quality of the talk than the quantity of words heard by a child. Taking turns to speak gives the child space and time to speak and receive feedback.

The practice of open and constructive conversation does not happen naturally, but we can improve it in just about any dialogue.

We can wait. Being silent before the other person speaks can contribute to language development in children, learning among students, and problem-solving by teams.

  • A considerate writer will add a few words of explanation to common technical terms, such as Arabidopsis, a flowering mustard plant.
  • Readers will appreciate many examples when you explain an idea..
  • If you write a sentence that makes you pause and think about what it means, assume your readers might react the same way.
  • Before publishing your writing, take a few moments to ensure that what you write is clear and understandable.

When we become good at our job or hobby, we use catchwords to shorten long-winded descriptions that we have become very familiar with.

The problem is that these catchwords become automatic. While we think these words would facilitate our communication, we forget that our readers may not understand the concepts behind these shortened words.

The root cause of bad writing

The root cause of bad writing is struggling to imagine what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know. Whenever writing is loaded with jargon, clichés, technical terms, and abbreviations, two questions come to mind:

  1. What is the writer is trying to say?
  2. How can the writer state those ideas more clearly without using confusing language?

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