Next week, I have the privilege of keynoting at the AFCPE symposium and I’ll present The Science of Laughter. This is a topic near to my heart because it’s the way I’ve lived my life.
When I married my husband, I got a three for one deal: I married the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot and I also inherited two young stepdaughters. Then my groom said, “let’s join the active duty Air Force and we can see the world.” But what he really showed me was five more children in seven years for a total of seven children. Then we took the show on the road and moved eleven times in thirteen years. I learned, very quickly, that I needed to learn to look at life in a funny way or end up on the funny farm.
I chose laughter.
I chose joy.
And my life has been better for it.
It has been said that “Laughter is Good Medicine,” but why is that actually true? There are a number of ways that laughter benefits the health and wealth of the communities we serve. These benefits exist on a number of levels.
The Physical Benefits of Laughter – Research from a variety of sources, including UCLA’s famous RxLaughter program explains what happens to someone physically when they laugh. It has a measurable benefit for an individual’s blood pressure and stress levels, it decreases heart disease, and improves overall physical health. In fact, Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University, asserts that “Laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite effects of stress.” The amazing result is that when we laugh more, we stress less.
The Social Benefits of Laughter – Robert R. Provide, a behavioral neuroscientist from the University of Maryland indicates that laughter is a social behavior. His studies testify that humor is contagious & can spread to an audience, it’s actually a form of communication. Sara Algoe, an associate professor of social psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has said, “We think laughter can draw us closer together to other people and grease the wheels for better social interaction”
There is also a specific science behind jokes, anecdotes and one-liners. When you build these into your work and presentations, everyone receives a quick, mental vacation.
The Financial Benefits of Laughter – You may have heard the classic premise of “laughing all the way to the bank,” but it is actually true in some ways. The quantitative data & my own personal experience proves how incorporating laughter into speaking events, financial education & contract negotiations improve an entrepreneur’s bottom line. Humor also helps teams maximize efficiency, effectiveness and it facilitates employee retention.
I was once working a contract to gain funding for Heroes at Home, my non-profit dedicated to providing free financial education to young military members. I was making very little headway with lead decision maker and it looked like we were going to end in a “no deal” situation. We decided to table the discussion until the end of our lunch together. I took the time to share humorous anecdotes about my biggest gaffes in my work with these service members and also shared some lighthearted stories that made the table begin to laugh. And I shared more and they laughed more. You’ve probably guessed the end of this story—we got our funding and more. I didn’t share the stories to get the contract, I shared them to lighten the environment. In the end, everyone was happier, and my military audiences were the ones who gained the most.
Take Away/Application to the Field
There is a very specific take away to the Science of Laughter and the way it applies to the entrepreneurs, the field of financial education and AFC® practitioners. I’ve seen these results in some of the 2000 financial education presentations that I’ve made to hundreds of thousands of participants and I’ve been gratified by the results. Using laughter helps in many unexpected ways such as information retention, better health and as a way to grow your business.
Information Retention – Humor helps the AFC®’s clients learn more in financial education sessions, whether it’s one-on-one or in front of 5,000 people. By including very specific humorous examples & conducting exercises that are effective but are also workplace appropriate, we can help our clients and audiences retain more information. One of my guiding principles is: when in doubt about a joke, always err on the side of propriety. I’m not willing to lose an audience member in the name of humor if it could alienate them in the process. But sharing a lighthearted quote or story can give the mind a break and then allow my audience to reengage in order to learn more.
Greater Health – Incorporating humor into your work life not only helps others, it helps the entrepreneur as well. If you are presenting at a workshop, a keynote or even in your own Toastmasters group, your audiences can experience this real time with some simple, short exercises that they can do during the session you present. One such exercise is to have them imagine what they would look like if they were shocked with an electrical shock, then turn to the person next to them, and without a word–imitate that look. It’s almost impossible NOT to laugh.
Another example of seeing this in action was when I was at FinCon19 and one of the keynote speakers quoted Mayo Angelou’s famous quote, “’I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Bethany Bayless, the wildly funny FinCon emcee, applauded the speaker and then said to the audience, “Now turn to the person sitting next to you, put your hand on their arm and say, ‘I will always remember how you feel.’” It took a moment for them to understand the humorous twist. But it was such an in-the-moment and funny turn on the quote that the audience kept laughing, in waves, for a full 3 minutes.” They needed the mental break from the heavy content they just heard from the keynote and this humorous exercise was just what the doctor ordered.
Grow Your Practice and your Business – Incorporating humor improves audience feedback and can lead to more opportunities for the practitioner. It’s one of the reasons we use liberal doses of humor in our podcast, The Money Millhouse. Whether it is word of mouth amongst individual clients, a greater social following or a demand for these skills in front of larger audiences, anyone can grow a practice or a business by adding the tool of laughter to their toolkit.