Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mediation Humor - To Laugh or Not to Laugh ?

Mediation can be a very stressful place for all participants - even the mediator! So, what can you do about it? Can you crack a joke as mediator? Can you laugh with participants or do you need to stay "above it all" as the mediator? As with most all mediation tolls and techniques, there are pros and cons to each. The same is true for humor.

For me, the strategic use of humor is another tool in my mediation tool box. Mediation participants often need humor to release tension and this helps folks focus on the hard decisions to be made at mediation. Further, according to Humor and Health Journal, laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases immune function, releases endorphins, and produces a general sense of well-being. Laughing also provides a workout for the diaphragm and increases oxygen flow providing a cleansing effect similar to deep breathing. With all these benefits, you should try to figure out how to “laugh your way through mediation.”

On a serious note, you must use humor with care and careful consideration. The joke you tell one group may not work with another and your timing must be impeccable. If you have ever tried something that was funny to you, but fell flat, then you know what I mean. It’s not the end of the world, but you sure feel bad given the looks you get. I suggest that you do not start off with “funny” comments or a joke and save this tool for a later moment after you have built rapport and can gauge your audience.

I sometimes bring in what I call “conflict comics” that provide a laugh. One of my favorites is a Calvin and Hobbs on compromise (see above). I show this to folks and tell them that I’m trying to make everyone look like Calvin. I call this the “Calvin Effect” and we all laugh. Folks resonate with Calvin and the notion that compromise might be necessary and this helps them let out some tension and then consider how to proceed.

How about you? Please pass on your favorite mediation humor stories with a comment!

1 comment:

Gary Javitch said...

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