How Humour and Laughter Create Learning and Social Bonding

8 Mar 2016

How Humour and Laughter Create Learning and Social Bonding

Humour and Laughter

Humour and laughter can help people make massive changes, whether that’s in the training room, during coaching or in therapy. When you’re laughing it’s hard to take any problem too seriously.

humour and laughter

This is the joke book I started collecting jokes in when I was 14 years old.

I truly value my sense of humour

I also laugh easily and have a reasonably quick wit. I started collecting jokes when I was fourteen and still have a small red book containing jokes from then. I discovered the book again the other day while I was looking for something serious. And yes, I keep all kinds of rubbish!

I’m pleased to say my humour is a bit more sophisticated nowadays…

And not quite so sick! I still love to tell jokes and have special files in my computer devoted to jokes and humour. And I’m quite good at remembering jokes. But it’s not just jokes that appeal to me, I love the way language can be misinterpreted in humorous ways, I adore puns and I’m a sucker for watching stand-up comedy on TV.

My sense of humour is especially useful when I’m working with people to effect change; whether that’s training a group on a course, during a coaching session or doing a therapeutic intervention. It’s virtually impossible to take any problem too seriously when you’re laughing your head off!

Any problems that were there, start to lose their grip as laughter takes their place.

I’ve also discovered that humour can help people learn more easily. 

I do my best to create a relaxed and informal environment in the classroom. A stuffy, staid and inflexible environment is not conducive to fun – or me for that matter. I love training and often feel at my best in the training room. But let’s be clear, I don’t use cruel or inappropriate humour, and it’s never at the expense of participants.

I use funny stories to illustrate a point whenever that’s appropriate. I think it’s just that in a relaxed environment my natural light-heartedness and spontaneity easily rise to the surface. I’m very good at making fun of myself and I believe it encourages others to not take themselves too seriously.

People like to laugh 

Laughter and fun become associated with what’s being taught. Participants remember laughing and link it to the learning and the context. That’s provided the laughter doesn’t get out of hand. I have had situations where I and some of the participants have laughed so hard we’ve had to stop the class until we could regain control of ourselves! In these cases, I realised that the laughter became associated with whatever started the laughing – rather than with the lesson. No harm done – and everyone felt better after a wonderful belly laugh, but I might have had to reteach the lesson to ensure everyone got the point.

My own discovery is reinforced by Powell and Andresen who found, in 1985, that,

“humour, provided it is not used to excess, can increase attention and interest and help to illustrate and reinforce what is being taught”

Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books said,

“A sense of humour is critical for a happy life. It can ease pain, accelerate healing, reduce tension, win friends and make life a fun-filled adventure.”

Wow! All the more reason then!

Laughter strengthens the bonds between people

It helps create a more social environment. It’s impossible to feel lonely when you’re in a community of people who are all laughing. This again, makes it easier for people to feel comfortable, learn, share and relate to each other.

That fourteen-year-old with the joke book and her classmates were always told that if we were laughing, we weren’t learning. We were instructed to ‘sit up straight, wipe the smile off our faces and pay attention’ if we wanted to learn anything at all while we were at school.

Now I know that nothing could have been further from the truth.