In todays personality stakes, nothing is more highly valued than a sense of humor. We seek it out in others and are proud to claim it in ourselves, perhaps even more than good looks or intelligence. If someone has a great sense of humor, we reason, it means that they are happy, socially confident and have a healthy perspective on life.
This attitude would have surprised the ancient Greeks, who believed humor to be essentially aggressive. And in ct, our admiration for the comedically gifted is relatively new, and not very well-founded, says Rod Martin, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario who studies the way people use humor. Being funny isnt necessarily an indicator of good social skills and well-being, his research has shownit may just as likely be a sign of personality flaws.
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This aggressive type of humor is used Whats Your Humor Style??to criticize and manipulate others through teasing, sarcasm and ridicule. When its aimed against politicians by the likes of Ann Coulter, its hilarious and mostly harmless. But in the real world, it has a sharper impact. Put-down humor, such as telling friends an embarrassing story about another friend, is a socially acceptable way to deploy aggression and make others look bad so you look good.
He has found that humor is a double-edged sword. It can forge better relationships and help you cope with life, or it can be corrosive, eating away at self-esteem and antagonizing others. Its a form of communication, like speech, and we all use it differently, says Martin. We use bonding humor to enhance our social connectionsbut we also may wield it as a way of excluding or rejecting an outsider. Likewise, put-down humor can at times be an adaptive,Humor healthy response: Employees suffering under a vindictive boss will often make the office more bearable by secretly ridiculing their tyrant.
When challenged on their teasing, the put-down joker often turns to the just kidding defense, allowing the aggressor to avoid responsibility even as the barb bites. Martin has found no evidence that those who rely on this type of humor are any less well-adjusted. But it does take a toll on personal relationships.
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Studies that link a sense of humor to good health are probably measuring this phenomenon; when you have a wry perspective, its hard to remain anxious or hostile for long. Martin calls it self-enhancing humor, because you dont need other people to entertain youif something peculiar or annoying happens,new york asian escorts youre perfectly capable of laughing at it on your own..
When we admire someone who doesnt take himself too seriously, this is the temperament were talking about. More than just a way of relating to other people, its a prism that colors the world in rosier shades. Someone with this outlook deploys humor to cope with challenges, taking a step back and laughing at the absurdities of everyday life. The Onion is a repository of this benign good humor. The columnist Dave Barry has perfected it with quips like this: Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting.
Talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres embraces her audience by sharing good-natured, relatable humor. Her basic message: Were alike, we find the same things funny and were all in this together.
In this style of humor, you are the butt of the joke for the amusement of others. Often deployed by people eager to ingratiate themselves, its the miliar clown or t guy playfulness that we loved in John Belushi and Chris Farleyboth of whom suffered for their success. A small dose of it is charming, but a little goes a long way: Routinely offering yourself up to be humiliated erodes your self-respect, fostering depression and anxiety. It also can backfire by other people feel uncomfortable, finds Nicholas Kuiper of the University of Western Ontario. He proposes that it may remind others of their own tendency toward self-criticism.
Farley, who died at age 33 from an overdose, had a streak of self-loathing. Chris chose the immediate pleasure he got in pleasing others over the long-term cost to himself, his brother wrote after his death. The bottom line: Excelling at this style of humor may lead to party invitations but can ultimately exact a high price.
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Nonetheless, bonding humor can have a dark side. After all, a feeling of inclusion can be made sweeter by knowing that someone else is on the outs. J.F.K. and his brothers would often invite a hated acquaintance to vacation with them; theyd be polite to his ce, but behind his back, the brothers would unite in deriding the hapless guest.
Though humor is essentially social, how you use it says a lot about your sense of self. Those who use self-defeating humor, fun of themselves for the enjoyment of others, tend to maintain that hostility toward themselves even when alone. Similarly, those who are able to view the world with amused tolerance are often equally forgiving of their own shortcomings.
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People who use bonding humor are fun to have around; they say amusing things, tell jokes, engage in witty banter and generally lighten the mood. These are the people who give humor a good name. Theyre perceived as warm, down-to-earth and kind, good at reducing the tension in uncomfortable situations and able to laugh at their own ults.