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Jennifer was a customer service representative for a large technology firm. Though her dreams and aspirations never included sitting in a padded cubicle listening to rude customers, that’s what she did for eight hours a day. Usually, the problems were related to consumer ignorance, and she would patiently instruct them to put in a battery or plug the device into an electrical outlet. To keep her sanity, she used a collection of finger puppets on her desk and pretended the callers were puppets. Then she could see and talk to the clown or the pig or the snooty lady bouncing on her finger. She used humor to survive.
From Shakespeare to Dilbert, ordinary characters rely on comedy to endure the struggles of life and death. As Mercutio lies dying in the tragedy of “Romeo and Juliet”, his last words are, “A plague on both your houses! They have made worm’s meat of me!” Then he laughs and dies. That’s a morbidly funny line. Worm’s meat? Would that really be a man’s last thought? Shakespeare is playing with the audience so the tragedy won’t be too horrific.
In the passionate and wildly popular Broadway musical “Les Miserables”, we’re exhausted as we witness the endless pain and terrible turmoil of characters who just want to live one more day to fulfill their destiny. Then just before we sink into a deep depression, the drunken innkeeper and his wife burst onto the stage with a hilarious rendition of “Master of the House.” The audience cheers with gratitude for the temporary emotional reprieve.
In a recent Dilbert cartoon, the intern Asok is killed and reincarnated as a candy bar. Office workers can relate to Asok, but the episode made us laugh anyway. Why?
We’re amused because nothing diffuses daily drama like a boisterous belly laugh. Studies prove laughter can reduce stress, increase creativity and lessen tensions. Happy people are healthier than crabby people, and they’re a lot more fun to be around. Jovial people can tackle problems with a positive attitude, while pessimistic whiners only take up space while wasting time and life by drafting hate mail and threatening lawsuits.
Just in case you meet or work with nasty people who only exist to bring pain and suffering to the world, here are some suggestions for using humor to diffuse stressful situations.
The best advice is to know that if you’re wallowing with the pigs, get out of the sty. You don’t have to tolerate uncomfortable, hostile or abusive treatment, and if you’re not occasionally laughing at work, you can’t work. Consider a department change or pursue educational opportunities for advancement. If you’re going to live to be 100, you might as well enjoy the journey. And don’t forget to pack your sense of humor.
About the author:
Elaine Ambrose is an award-winning comedic author and speaker who motivates business audiences to use humor to survive and thrive in the workplace. Her 30-year business resume includes being a manager at a Fortune 100 corporation, bank officer, television news reporter, magazine editor and, most recently, co-founder of Mill Park Publishing. Currently, she is co-writing a comedic book for middle-aged women titled, “Menopause Sucks.” Please contact Elaine at 208-630-4217 or ElaineAmbrose1@aol.com.