The Secret To Using Humor Successfully To Deal With Difficult Subjects

Kelly: Some people think you shouldn’t use humor to talk about difficult stuff, but there’s an effective way to use it.

Anne: Comedy and humor really have three parts to it. It has truth or recognition, it has pain, and it has this level of distance and objectivity…When you use humor to make something that is painful and give it a little bit of objectivity, it can allow you to not just have distance to make the joke, but also distance to deal with something.

K: You talk about empathetic communication where it's not just important what I'm saying, it's how you're hearing it.

A: Humor is this moment of ESP between the two of us that we have. When we laugh at the same thing we're having a moment of true empathy, where we're thinking kind of the same thing at the same time.

K: Can you also use humor to diffuse tense situations or tension in general?

A: I think it goes back to that objectively, calling out what's happening right now, that can diffuse a tense situation. That if I am saying, ‘wow, this is really uncomfortable.’ Literally just saying that that can allow everyone to relax a little bit because we're on the same page.

K: The line I use is ‘you shouldn't be using comedy without a license.’ How might you use comedy in its most successful way?

A: To effectively use comedy to diffuse a tense situation, you need some practice. You need to spend some time thinking about what is an ethical use of pain and truth and what isn't.

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