Mastering Humor in Communication
How to Avoid Offending Your Audience While Having Fun
Humor can be a powerful tool in communication, but it's essential to navigate it carefully. While we all appreciate a good laugh, humor has a flip side that can easily offend. In today's interconnected world, a seemingly innocent joke shared in various forms of communication can quickly become public, causing harm to your reputation. So, even the crucial need to understand your audience may not be enough to avoid such pitfalls.
When engaging with clients, leads, friends, or family, you don't have to abandon humor altogether. Humor adds vibrancy and impact to our messages, brightening our days. However, it's vital to steer clear of certain topics and types of jokes to ensure your humor resonates positively.
Growing up I was taught the three things we shouldn’t joke about are sex, religion and politics. To add to those “forbidden three,” it's also never okay to joke about race or ethnicity.
Let's (not) talk about sex.
“Dirty” sex jokes, often containing explicit language and inappropriate content, have no place in public discussions. Additionally, steer clear of comments that are homophobic, double-entendres, or perpetuate stereotypes like dumb blonde jokes.
We're all part of the human race.
Never make jokes about someone's race, ethnicity, or any physical or mental condition. Making light of these aspects can be hurtful and perpetuate stereotypes. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and consider whether the joke would uplift or offend them. Avoiding such references is the safest approach.
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Political correctness is to not discuss politics.
Political preferences and beliefs can be divisive. Revealing your political stance may inadvertently alienate potential clients and leads. To maintain a broad appeal, it's advisable to keep political references out of your communications and focus on connecting through other means. We’ve probably all seen real estate brokers, retail business owners and corporate entities display their preference for or against a political party and/or its candidates and have wondered, why are they pushing away half of their leads and potential customers?
Happy Grasshopper has a policy not to discuss politics. It’s a good policy, and it’s one that should be front and present when you decide to use humor in your communications with leads or clients.
Be respectful and inclusive of everyone's beliefs
Holy cow should not be a religious reference. Religion is a sensitive topic, and jokes or humorous references about religious beliefs and practices should be off-limits. Sensational news stories and stereotypes can easily offend those who hold religious beliefs different from our own. It's best to err on the side of caution and avoid religion-based humor.
Crafting Memorable Communications without Offense
So, what can you joke about?
Self-deprecating humor can be a safe and enjoyable option. The comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s entire routine was based on joking about himself:
I know I’m ugly. My dog found out last week he looked like me. He killed himself…I was an ugly kid, too. My old man took me to the zoo. The man at the gate thanked him for returning me…I tell ya, I don’t get no respect -- Last week my house caught on fire. My wife told the kids to be quiet, you’ll wake up daddy!
By turning the spotlight on yourself, you avoid targeting others and showcase a healthy sense of humor.
Additionally, you can employ humor in a more subtle way, such as changing the meaning of a statement: Wouldn’t you like to have enough money to buy a yacht. Even if you don’t want a yacht, I’m sure you’d like enough money to buy one?
A favorite humorous trick is using parentheses to create an "aside" with your reader. In films and plays, when a character turns to the camera and addresses the audience, it’s called breaking the fourth wall. You can do the same with your Youtube messages. (It takes a little editing, but hey, who said humor was cheap?) You can also do it in a written message with a parenthetical statement. (Sometime, remind me to show you an example.)
Some salespeople have given new meaning to a phrase. For example: My favorite four-letter word is “S-O-L-D.”
Some real estate agents have focused on specific audiences, like renters: You’re already paying a mortgage. It’s just not yours.
Humor is a valuable tool, but its effectiveness lies in connecting positively with your audience. By understanding what to avoid and choosing your comedic approach wisely, you can create engaging and memorable communications without causing offense.
Let's keep our communications light-hearted and respectful. Together, we can share laughter without crossing boundaries or hurting others.