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Humor at Work – Trust Me! Humor is Important!

Professor William Hampes studied the relationship between humor and trust and discovered that, like Starsky and Hutch, Sheldon and Amy on the Big Bang Theory, or peanut butter and cheese (so I have strange tastes) it is indeed a match made in heaven. The study of 89 people found that those who measured highest on tests that measured their appreciation of humor and how well they used humor as a coping tool and in social situations, were considered more trustworthy than people who measured lower on various humor scales. (There’s a rubber chicken and egg relationship here too: when people trust each other they are more relaxed and more inclined to be themselves, so it becomes easier to share their sense of humor.) Other studies have shown a positive relationship between the language people use and trust: the simpler, more direct language, the higher the trust in the person delivering the message. When people, especially leaders, start communicating in that strange foreign language known as corporate speak, double talk or deja moo (the feeling you’ve heard this bull before), the level of trust plummets. Fans of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart understand why Stewart gets routinely voted as “the most trustworthy journalist”: humor can create trust when it uncovers hidden truths and exposes the emperor’s tush. And whether you’re talking about your customer service, teamwork or leadership at work, trust is paramount when it comes to building a great workplace. So I’d challenge you to think about your own style of communication at work. Are you speaking in simple, direct language that actually means something? And are you making the best use of your sense of humor to build more bridges and trust in your workplace?

Copyright Michael Kerr,  2012.    For great ideas, inspiration and a bit of fun each week, sign up for the Humor at Work e-newsletter at

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