Spotlight on Humor

Karyn Buxman

  • Neurohumorist, TEDx speaker


Be Smarter, Richer & Better Looking with Humor—No Joke!

If you could be smarter, richer and better looking without breaking a sweat, breaking the bank, or eating kale, would you be interested? Yes? Then here’s all you have to do: Use more humor. No joke! (But it has to be strategic humor. More on that later.)

Can humor make you smarter?

Cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems says yes, it can. Studies show that humor can increase your ability to problem-solve and deal with more complexity. And the best part? You don’t even have to be funny to benefit! Performing humor and comprehending humor are two different brain activities.

The more you experience and comprehend humor, the more times your brain connects disassociated ideas and concepts—in short, neuroplasticity. When you increase your neuroplasticity, you are increasing your cognitive capacity—a high performer’s greatest asset.

Can humor make you richer?

You bet, and in a number of ways. Here are just a few:

A study by organization and management consultant Fabio Sala shows the direct correlation between how funny executives were and the size of their bonuses. It found that the funnier the exec, the bigger the bonus.

Other studies have shown that those with a good sense of humor have been promoted more quickly than their colleagues without a sense of humor.

Strategic humor (applied humor used for a specific outcome) leads to better relationships, which can lead to better sales. Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, says, “Get your prospect to laugh. Laughter is tacit approval.”

Additionally, practicing strategic humor can lead to better health. This means fewer expenditures on healthcare for you and for your employees.

The benefits reach all the way down to your bottom line.

And here’s more great news:

People with a good sense of humor are perceived to be better looking. Really! Researcher Daniel Doerksen presented his findings at the American Psychological Association in 2017. He reported that when people are funnier, it makes them seem more attractive which, in turn, makes others more interested in them romantically. (Of note: in Doerksen’s study, people who were perceived as less funny were rated as less attractive—Uh oh! There’s some incentive for you!)

But wait—there’s more!

Studies show that humor can also: decrease stress; improve mood; enhance resilience; increase happiness; boost employee engagement; foster customer satisfaction; increase creativity; boost productivity; improve physical health; help you lose weight; and even get you through airport security faster. (Okay, I lied about getting through airport security faster, but it can make your flight more enjoyable!)

For all these reasons and more, today’s high performers are embracing and applying humor in their personal and professional lives. Here are three “High Performance Humor Habits” from my upcoming book, Funny Means Money: Strategic Humor for Influence and World Domination (ForbesBooks, 2020), that can help you harness humor and leverage laughter for your benefit:

  1. See Funny. It’s more important to be a humor appreciator than a humor initiator. Practice finding the humor around you. Be persistent. The more often you make an effort, the more your brain will reward you, until eventually you will recognize the abundance of humor around you every day.
  1. Stack the Deck. When humor happens by chance, we get laughs. But when humor happens by choice, we get results. Increase the likelihood of experiencing more humor by manipulating your environment to include more fun items, activities, and people in your daily life.
  1. Become a Student of Humor. Tiger Woods has had a gift for golf since he was a kid. Mozart and Picasso were child prodigies. But these guys didn’t rely only on their natural talents—they had teachers and coaches; they experimented; they practiced. When they failed, they tried again. I think we all have something to learn from them. Find a mentor, read a book, or take a class to help you grow your skills.

I saved the best news for last: Being smarter, richer, and better looking is just the tip of the iceberg! Practice strategic humor and discover for yourself just how powerful humor can be.