Using humor can be an effective way to reduce conflict in several ways. First, it is imperative to remember that there is a time and place for humor. If it is done poorly or in bad taste it can do a lot of additional damage.
You must use judgment for how and when to use humor. Avoid humor that is at the expense of another person or group. Also, avoid humor that is in poor taste.
Keeping precautions in mind, let’s discuss some of the ways humor can help alleviate the conflict between people and groups.
Humor diffuses tension
Using humor can help diffuse tension and lighten the mood. This aspect can be especially helpful in emotionally charged situations. Humor can take some of the intensity out of the dialog. The result will help people see things from a more relaxed and less adversarial perspective.
It promotes empathy if done well
Humor can help make the other person feel heard and understood. By using humor in a non-threatening way, it demonstrates listening and trying to connect on a personal level. When using reflective listening, often the humor can be packaged in the brief reflections.
Encourages perspective taking
Humor can encourage people to take perspective by helping them see things from a different angle. Introducing humor can open up possibilities for how the situation can be resolved. It encourages creative thinking in problem-solving.
Creates Common Ground
Humor creates a shared experience between people. It can help create a sense of common ground. Finding something that everyone can laugh about helps build rapport. It can enable a greater sense of teamwork.
Humor reduces defensiveness
It can put people at ease and make it easier for people to actually hear each other. By injecting some zest into the conversation, it lightens the load on everyone.
Remember the caveats
Inappropriate or hurtful humor can do more harm than good. You need to understand the situation and the people involved to use humor to your advantage. Do not assume all people have the same sensitivities. Stay away from sensitive areas or polarizing concepts. Be alert for body language signals to ensure you are not offending anyone with your humor.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.