“You’re just too funny,” is what I heard. “You’re not able to be serious,” is what was said.
For someone who has a history of being pretty serious, the statement took me by surprise. That is likely why I morphed it into, “I’m too funny.” In my job, I know I do a good job of listening – I need to. In my personal life, I am starting to wonder.
Communication is important in any type of relationship. “Morphing” statements into what we want to hear/expect to hear can be dangerous. Perhaps the pendulum had swung too far if I was being told I was not able to be serious.
Somewhere along the line I learned that being serious all the time could kill conversations. However, by adding a humorous tangent to a discussion, others were more likely to respond. Humor also became a way for me to broach difficult topics and lighten the mood when things were getting a bit too heavy. This lightening of mood, however, could also be used to avoid uncomfortable topics. Humor could divert conversations to safer areas. This is what I was being accused of doing. But, when I thought about what was happening, I looked at it as using humor as a safe way to talk about difficult topics while pushing the envelope a little further in areas that were already difficult to talk about. I did not think I was using it frivolously to take conversations off-topic.
There are a variety of ways we can use humor – from joyful to sarcastic, light-hearted to mean-spirited. At an earlier time in my life when I was an angrier person, I tended to be more sarcastic. Sarcasm let me express anger in a safer way at a time when I was not very good at recognizing or releasing my anger (see my earlier blog). I hope that being more relaxed in my humor today indicates there is less anger now.
Humor is an important way for us to deal with our anxiety. Comedians are often successful by poking fun at our collective anxieties in the jokes they tell. They get us to look at difficult issues by treading that line between the funny and the serious. We use humor in much the same way. Certain types of humor may be used more often than others and we tend to use it for different purposes. Often times it will be positive and encouraging, sometimes it will be diversionary, other times it may be to express our anger. It can be worthwhile to check in from time to time (as I have learned) to see how we are using humor in our lives.
Reggie E, MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.