The Last Laugh is the
By Judy Carter
Schoolyard bullies, snappish bosses,
prickly co-workers, nitpicky spouses, unappreciative in-laws, and so
someone in your life thinks you’re fair game, help is on its way
and it’s called: humor. Seriously, take a lesson from
the world of professional comics, we who deal routinely with
the world of a standup comic: There is always some loud,
imbibing biped in the audience who thinks high decibel,
mean-spirited public catcall makes for a great night. The
comic’s job is never to lose control of the pace or spirit of
routine. By controlling ourselves – our response – we
control the heckler and the audience.
Our objective is to get the last laugh.
techniques we use work in the office, in school and at home.
Humor is a brilliant tool when well aimed and wielded with
confidence. It not only lessens tension, it can build trust. Look
at Martha Stewart’s response to Jon Stewart’s jibe: “She
could make a shiv out of a lamb chop.” Martha could have
curled up in humiliation at a jailhouse joke at her expense.
Instead, she said, Jon Stewart is so cute that “I have a crush on
him." Subtext to Wall Street and Living readers:
Martha is so friendly and confident that she can take a joke. Her
spirit will prevail. Her brand will thrive!
they go hand-in-hand – humor and keeping control. Want the
upper hand when you’re attacked? There’s often nothing
sharper than wit. Most of
us know someone who thinks they have a free pass to prove they’re
right and we’re wrong – and what’s more, that that’s
“Why come in if you’re not going to be on time?”
call yourself a professional?”
could you let this happen?”
you ever listen?”
looks like you’ve put on a few pounds.”
of some of the great sound bites of the past few years. They
were often deftly tossed out to deflect an attack by denying it all
credence. But say your piece funnier and who wins, in the public
mind? The person who is right? No, the person who is
our greatest Presidential humorist, Ronald Reagan. The Great
Communicator didn’t express large ideas well – for that, we had,
say Lincoln. But he could frame his ideas and rebut any challenge with
lighthearted, seemingly effortless humor. That made us feel
good, even if it took us off the topic.
answered attacks like this: “They
say hard work never hurt anybody, but I figure why take the
see, it’s hard to be angry and enjoy someone’s joke at the same
time. No problem seemed to stick to the Teflon President.
Laughing with him seems to change the shape and scale of a problem.
s as if the national deficit shrunk in the telling of his joke.
time someone gives you a hard time, don’t get mad, get funny.
Because when we laugh, the hostility – the problem – gets
smaller if not disappears altogether! A good snappy
response might be all it takes to de-fuse an inflammatory remark.
at your life as a standup comic -- you don’t have the boss from
hell, you have a heckler. Humor
re-directs hostility like t’ai chi shifts energy only it’s funny
when the attacker slips on a banana.
you can control is how you react to attacks. So take control!
See if you can put these three rules to use the next time
someone heckles you:
Validate What They Say:
is closed off, once you let someone know you heard them. Repeat back
what you heard. This provides time to distance you and avoid
an instinctive reaction like defensiveness or revenge. And it will
give you time to think of what you really want to say.
see, you think I should have gone to you in the first place with
this problem" or "So,
you’ve noticed that I gained weight."
what is said does not mean that what was said is right -- only that
you heard it.
know you are concerned about that."
mood is kept intact, the hostility is left with the attacker, and
you can walk away if you like.
don’t want to be manipulated by other people’s insecurities and
hostilities. Usually an attack expresses someone else’s
problem, their issues. If
you start to defend yourself, you may give credence to the initial
contention. Defending yourself lowers your status, makes you
look unconfident, gives them power to set the terms of an argument.
Ronald Reagan’s famous pre-emptive comeback to concerns about his
age, delivered during the 1984 Presidential debate with Walter
want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this
campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my
opponent's youth and inexperience."
Don’t Get Mad, Get Funny:
stir the anger pot. If
you react in anger, you lose: You got caught in the other person’s
energy zone. Even if they are wrong in what they’re accusing
you of, they have succeeded in enticing you into combat and what’s
more, they got to choose the weapon. They win because they got
you angry. You are now no different from them.
comedy spin is not for the benefit of the other person. The
goal isn’t to make the other person laugh.
The goal is to keep your sanity. Better to punch up
your jokes than punch out your boss.
in a one-to-one will you get someone else to laugh. But you get to
laugh and that’s plenty powerful. Walk
away with the last laugh. Sometimes that means to simply
reiterate what you heard but greatly exaggerated and without
defensiveness. Have some fun.
You have gained weight, haven’t you?
and thank you for noticing that all my over night eating has finally
paid off! My anorexia is
You should have come to me with this problem:
idea. I’m going to come to you with all my problems.
I’ve got this big rash… you want to see it?
You look pretty when you smile:
I’d look drop dead gorgeous when I get a promotion.
finally when someone is just being plain inappropriate in the
workplace. If you’re a
woman and someone is talking to you, and looking at your chest, just
say, “Hey Buddy, if they talk back you can have them!”
real problems, even tough problems, can be fun too, with the right
that’s a good thing.
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