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Finding the Humor

When you make people laugh, they listen. When they listen, they remember you and what you’ve said. That makes you a communication genius.

Before you say, “I am NOT funny,” think about all of the ‘tragedies’ that have befallen you, that you now talk about while laughing.

In my seminars I ask people to tell their humorous stories. A dental hygienist tilted the dental chair so far back that the patient lost his toupee. It landed on the dentist’s arm. He jerked his arm forward and the toupee hopped right back into its proper place.

One client went to the other gender’s bathroom and did not realize this until he began to wash his hands.

Another speaker commented to her audience, “Wow…my speech has ended, it’s past 5:00 in the afternoon, and you’re still here asking questions.” She was impressed with herself until an attendee admitted, “This is the auditorium where the raffle prizes are being called out at 5:30!”

In each of these stories, the humor-induced calamity can help make a point. With the toupee, everyone was able to laugh, and the patient became a lifelong client. Ending up in the wrong bathroom gave this client an entree into a presentation about how to handle uncomfortable moments. The speaker with the raffle-bound audience uses this story as a lesson on how to stay humble.

The safest person to poke fun at is you. Self-deprecating humor humanizes you and allows your listener to see you as a fellow, imperfect human being. Your challenge is to sprinkle your personal humor thoughtfully. You want to establish credibility without appearing the total fool.

Mark Twain said it best: humor is tragedy plus time. Often, it takes some distance for a painful moment to ferment into a laughing matter.

Write down what has made you laugh. Add an epilogue answering these questions:

What have I learned from this calamity? 
How can I use this situation to enforce a point? 
Humor is finding the funny stuff and figuring out how it can relate to your speech, your proposal, your personal interaction, or your work.

And remember–leave ’em laughing.

Know Your Audience

By Rachel Schwarz

I volunteer as an advisor for a high school youth group. This weekend, the new freshmen members joined “my” chapter. While the kids were getting to know each other, I held a meeting for all of the parents.

I was struck at the contrasting techniques that the youth group leaders took at educating the new members compared to the way I approached the parents.

The young leaders yelled, screamed and cheered our new recruits!

Here’s how I presented the same information to the moms and dads. I calmly went over an agenda including the set-up of the youth group, the calendar of events, and ways to stay in touch via e-mail/cell phones.

At the end of the afternoon, all of the parents and kids left feeling comfortable in the new environment and excited about the future. However, it was a blatant example of how different audiences require specific tailoring in order to be effective.

Remember to keep in mind that the way you present your message has a substantial effect on how it will be received. Had I screamed to the parents while the youth leaders handed out an organized agenda to their peers – we’d have a youth group mutiny! Adapt your message to your audience, and you will be much more influential and persuasive!

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