Fear is the most powerful emotion (hormone – cortizol) in our body. It serves an invaluable role when we are being attacked or threatened and sets up the defense mechanisms that we need to live another day. Without it our reaction to a fast car coming at us, for example, would be too slow. But as I’ve discussed many times now, the concentration of this hormone in most of us is awfully high and disproportionate to others. This imbalance keeps us from many equally important experiences to our survival. One of them is laughter.
A colleague of mine did his doctoral dissertation on the physiology of laughter and the role it plays both in life and the workplace. He discovered that whereas a very high percentage of people said that they enjoy laughing, an equally high percentage said that they in fact do not. One of the easiest ways for me to identify GREEN people (see previous blogs), is the authenticity of their smile and their laughter. It is troubling to me that both smiling and laughter are often considered enemies of productivity in the workplace. There is no research to corroborate this. Laughter produces hormones that actually dilute cortizol levels. It is impossible to be in a state of fear and genuinely laugh at the same time. Since fear is already proven to constrict effective communication, collaboration and innovation, and since laughter can dilute fear, then laughter should therefore, be considered as an enabler to effective communication, collaboration and innovation.
I am troubled that a good sense of humor is a rarity in the workplace, and amongst adults in general. It is not a skill set I see being nurtured by parents to their kids, or by managers to their employees. This Thanksgiving week and holiday season, I encourage you to explore humor in your life and work. How many times a day to you actually smile or laugh? What about those around you? What do you know to nurture that spirit? Who have you made smile or laugh?