Small Humor, Big Humor

Some researchers who study humor (yes, they do exist!) and report their findings in the International Journal of Humor Research make an important distinction between two types of humor.

“Small humor” is the phrase used to describe jokes, riddles, puns etc.

“Big humor” is the phrase used to refer to the larger sense of humor we all possess. Big humor encapsulates the general ability of people to recognize and appreciate humor in their lives.  Big humor is about having a healthy sense of balance and sense of proportion, about the ability to take ourselves lightly.

Although the terms are rather simplistic, I like the way they make the distinction.  After all, we all know people who can memorize a thousand one-liners but have a terrible sense of humor.  Conversely, we all know people who couldn’t tell a joke if their life depended on it, but they still possess an amazingly deep sense of humor.

This distinction definitely gets to the heart of what we are about at Humor at Work: it’s not about the jokes or even about being funny, it’s all about the need for workplaces and leaders to embrace the BIG humor concepts.

It’s an important distinction too because I think that’s why a lot of leaders still fear the notion of bringing humor into their workplace. They fear that encouraging humor in their workplace is going to lead to everyone unleashing their inner stand-up comedian or class clown. It will lead to Whoopee cushions at the next boardroom meeting and flocks of rubber chickens will descend onto the office.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth–at least from our experience looking at the success stories of organizations who embraced humor as one of their core values.

So if you’re talking to your team or leaders about the need to bring more fun and humor into your workplace, make sure you make the distinction.

Is it humor or HUMOR you want to invest in and encourage?

Michael Kerr,  December, 20111, www.mikekerr.com

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