Friday, 1 March 2013

Q16: How can laughter resolve conflicts?

Laughter is famously good for us. A peek at Google reveals over 10.5 million sites which refer to its health benefits. And I've just discovered that laughter doesn't have to be 'real'. Even fake laughter apparently leads to health and happiness.
[This is the claim made by Dr Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga, see]

So I decided to give it a go....

Making sure the house was empty, I set myself going. At first, I blushed at my solo chortles; but to my relief, I found that my embarrassed laughter quickly turned into the real thing. The neighbour's dog joined in, and began barking joyously. I tried it later with a friend (laughing, not barking) - and it was easier still!

The more I laugh, the more it seems to me that joyous laughter is a natural antidote to conflict. It holds our innate expertise. Here are four reasons why:


1. Laughter dissolves barriers - and creates instant connection

Laughter teaches us what conflict is not. When I laugh wholeheartedly, I notice that nothing stands in the way between me and other people. Anything inside me which is guarded, wary, critical or judgemental seems to dissolve. I feel in pure connection with everything and everyone. If I can laugh in a difficulty, I'm saved!

  • Judgements and criticism
  • Lingering bad feelings and hard 'edges'
  • Sharp division between 'You' and 'Me' 
Genuine laughter (no conflict):
  • Warm, welcoming attitudes
  • Open, flowing feelings
  • Growing sense of 'Us'


2. Laughter naturally shifts our perspective

When we laugh, we see things completely differently. That's how many jokes work, as we suddenly find our assumptions turned on their heads. From our 'old' perspective, the new one looks funny.

And it's the same with connection. In people matters, connection is the magic ingredient which shifts the way we see everything. The more connected we are, the more relaxed we feel around difficulties. From that new place, the same person and the same events feel - and are! - different.

To explore your sense of connection, try asking yourself these questions - about someone you like, and someone you dislike. Notice the different perspectives you have on people, depending on your sense of connection.
  • Do you feel easy about their quirks and foibles?
  • If you've done something 'daft', do you feel they'll understand?
  • Can you imagine laughing with them?
Laughing teaches us how dramatic a shift in perspective can be. Since resolving conflicts relies on the same ability, perhaps telling jokes can indirectly enhance our skill in communication! (I put a few of mine below, so you can try it out.)


3. Laughter brings us 'home' 

When we laugh spontaneously, we're happy from within. But in a conflict, we're 'out there'. Angry thoughts and feelings lash outwards. We automatically blame and criticise others in self defence. (We also have fierce inner critics who lash out at us.)

The first step to resolving an argument is to 'come home'. In a conflict, our best qualities seem to disappear. It's almost as if the other person has stolen them from us. But when we reconnect with these qualities in ourselves, we no longer depend on another person to feel them. We find them in ourselves.
  • Inside any hurt, angry or 'defensive' thought, notice how you feel in yourself
  • Ask what has gone missing for you
  • Spend time pondering the human qualities you value, need and want in you 


4. Laughter is infectious - and so is empathy!

Just as a wholehearted laugh is infectious, so empathy touches everything in the situation. The moment we make room for ourselves, we make room for others; when we include others, we can include ourselves, too.

In an argument, our understanding of someone else may start off forced (just as laughter may start off faked) but it can become real as we set it going. As we make space for the other person, we begin to see them differently. We don't need to agree with their views, or even understand them. We only need to know that their feelings are dear to them, just as ours are dear to us. We don't need clever solutions or insights to mend an argument. We only need connection.


(Still feeling grumpy?)

But in case this talk of laughing just leaves you grumpy or blue, don't despair! There are good reasons we feel those stubborn, stuck or sticky feelings which 'won't let go'. We look at them in next month's tip.



Try it out!

These are my ponderings on the connections between laughter and conflict. But why not try laughing yourself, and see what occurs to you? (If you want to let me know how you get on, my blog comments are now WORKING!)

Here are some things which might set you going. I find these exam mistakes by children irresistible:
The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies, comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Romeo's last wish was to be laid by Juliet.
Solomon had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.

Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained. 

Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and traveled by Camelot.

Queen Elizabeth was the 'Virgin Queen'. As a queen she was a success. When she exposed herself before her troops they all shouted "Hurrah!"

Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100 foot clipper.

Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.

History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long.
Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul ... Dying, he gasped out: "Tee hee, Brutus."

Magna Carta provided that no man should be hanged twice for the same offence.

Another story was William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son's head.

Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this. 

Gravity was invented by Isaac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.

Bach died from 1750 to the present. Bach was the most famous composer in the world and so was Handel. Handel was half German half Italian and half English. He was very large.

And here are two classic old jokes:
Three friends went to a funeral, and afterwards they asked each other what they hoped their friends would say about them, when they were in their coffins. The first said, "I'd like to be known as the kindest man they'd ever known." The second said, "I'd like them to say I was the wisest." The third thought for a while, and said, "I'd like them to say - Look! He's still moving!"
TEACHER: What is the chemical formula for water? 
TEACHER: What are you talking about? 
PUPIL: Yesterday you said it's H to O!

Feel free to send me some more via the Comments below this post.

By Elizabeth English
with Peter Kuklis

1 comment:

  1. I have to post a comment (my first on your blog)! That was quite naughty and underhanded... I was laughing so hard at those ridiculous 'mistakes' that I started crying and nearly ruptured myself... One good turn deserves another:

    What do you call a fly with no wings?? (a crawl)

    Why didn't the monkey's get any bananas?? (because the paracetemol)