Reducing Conflict 91 Use Humor

April 30, 2023

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. 

Body Language 99 Overacting

November 6, 2020

Ideally, body language should be a natural form of communication that is mostly unconscious. Some people put too much energy into their body language, and it comes across as insincere and phony.

When you try to impress people with overt gestures, they will often become suspicious, and it lowers trust between yourself and other people. I will describe how overdone body language impacts us in a couple areas, starting with the entertainment world.


Consider the movie, “Dumb and Dumber.” The two principle characters (played by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels) constantly overdid their gestures and body language to the point where it became laughable. Actually, by the time the movie was half over, I was already tired of the humor.

When you think about it, many comedians make their living out of exaggerating gestures to the point of absurdity. A good example would be Kramer on the Jerry Seinfeld program. The phenomenon is not confined to the entertainment industry, it can occur in our professional and family lives.

Professional and Family

In the real world, overacting will get you into trouble because whenever you are forcing gestures, you are subject to sending mixed signals. Even if you try to have all your body language in the same direction, you run a high risk of confusing people. In doing so, trust is compromised.

You know some people in your professional circles who have broad sweeping gestures trying to make an impact. We also can experience some family members that use exaggerated body movements to punctuate drama. This tendency is also seen in some meeting environments where the stakes are particularly high.

Be your authentic self as much of the time as you can and let your body language flow naturally. Trying to force gestures in order to impress others or create some specific reaction in them, you inevitably sacrifice your own credibility.

How to Improve

One way you can hone your skill at using only natural and free-flowing gestures is to be a conscious observer of other people at all times. Look for signs of inconsistency in body language. As you become more adept at spotting the problem in others, you will naturally tend to do it less in your own case.

Try to catch yourself in the act of putting on a show in order to drive a specific reaction. Then block yourself from making the false signal. If you do it well and prevent yourself from sending mixed signals, then praise yourself for the growth you are experiencing.

Another way to grow in this dimension is to ask someone who is close to you to point out when you are being incongruent. Be sure to reinforce the person for sharing his or her reaction so you encourage more of that kind of candor in the future.

Studying Emotional Intelligence is another way to become more consistent. As we gain more knowledge of our own feelings and emotions, we can begin to see opportunities to modify our appearance to be indicative of how we are really feeling.

Overacting is a common problem in our society at all levels. Work to become more aware of any possible mixed signals you might be sending, and you will enhance the level of trust you experience with others.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”