Ways to distinguish yourself #153 – Use humor right!

Ways to distinguish yourself #153 – Use humor right!

By Rajesh Setty on Tue 18 Jul 2006, 11:12 PM – 5 Comments

It is fun to be around people who are humorous. Right?

Wrong. “Probably” is the right answer. It all depends on what kind of humor we are talking about. Humor when not used right can simply hurt someone or make them uncomfortable.

Since humor is typically related to people, the fundamental question to always ask is:

“Are you 100% sure that the person on whom the humor is used is not offended by your comment?”

(Question courtesy: Michael Allosso)

The quick outcome of bad humor is alienation. Someone who is offended by your humor may retaliate in which case you can apologize and may be settle that matter. Alternately, the person may “write you off” and ignore you and worse he or she may not tell you that they are “ignoring” you. What is the loss for you? You would never know? Bad humor is an easy way to take a step towards losing your friends.

With that in mind, here are some basic rules to remember:

* no humor based on religion

* no humor based on gender

* no humor based on ethnicity

* no humor based on physical appearance

* no humor based on age

So what is an easy way out? The safest option I can think of is to develop an ability to laugh at yourself. We all need to take our work seriously but never take ourselves seriously.


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5 Comments so far, Add Yours

Anonymous  on July 19th, 2006

This was a really timely post as I picked up the latest issue of Psychology Today magazine yesterday and they had an article on the different ways to use/disuse humour.

Here’s the article:

Crack Me Up:


I think there are more ways to disuse humour than there are correct ways, although it all depends on the people involved and the situation.

Anonymous  on July 19th, 2006

Oh yeah. Self-directed humor is the safest way to go, and it really helps to establish a connection with your audience.

I think I use a fair amount of it on my blog, for example, see: http://stevefarber.com/mt/archives/2006/07/and_id_really_l.html

and have a laugh at my expense…

Anonymous  on July 20th, 2006

Steve, Karen:

Thanks for the comments and the links. Have a great evening there.



Anonymous  on July 20th, 2006

Hi Rajesh

Really very good post. Though the checklist you have given is not complete, it serves very well if we want to know whether our humour is in good sense or not.



Anonymous  on July 20th, 2006


Thanks for the very important reminder. You might want to add disability and sexual orientation – those are also areas you do not want to touch upon unless you happen to fall in those categories. I fall in the disability category. Let me illustrate.

When I give speeches, I often tell the story of when I was a kid I wore a hearing aid box that was strapped around my chest in an albatross with wires that ran from the box all the way up to the ears. This gave a protruding appearance on my chest (hearing aid box was concealed beneath the shirt). Then I deliver the joke that I looked like I had just stepped off a space ship – this elicits laughter because I just poked fun at myself, not anyone else.

I also make it even funnier when telling them about the bully who threatened to punch the hearing aid box. You can read the story in my blogger at:


The secret is to poke fun at yourself to play safe.

Thanks for letting me share.

Stephen Hopson


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