Laughter Makes You Smarter -- And More Effective

Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's helpful, according to humorist Dave Barry, that “TV news personalities make sad faces for sad stories and happy faces for happy stories." Otherwise, he says, we wouldn't know how we're supposed to feel.

He might have been joking, but it's often true that a speaker's expressions and tone are key to audience response. For instance, is a 17% change in your numbers awesome news? Does it reflect okay results, or does it miss the mark completely? Your listeners might not know, but your delivery will communicate the difference. If you fail to make your meaning clear, listeners are likely to tune out. You're making them work too hard, and maybe even making them feel a little dumb. It's up to you to communicate clearly whether they should feel reassured, or alarmed.

Delivering a clear message that everyone gets requires varied expression.  From a physiological perspective, the mechanics that create a monotone delivery become ingrained muscular habits that take time to break. The back of the neck, the shoulders and ribs, the muscles around the larynx, the soft palate, jaw and tongue, learn and repeat the habitual patterns of being in safe mode. 

Changing these habits requires a shift in thinking, and loosening the muscles that have gotten stuck. It requires changing things on a cellular level by changing the experience in the body. By getting all the parts involved to work more fluidly, you can develop greater control to express yourself in a way that works for you and your audience.

What's it all mean? The work required to change those habits feels a lot like play. And where there is play there is laughter. Laughter is not just good for the soul -- it's excellent exercise to improve your delivery.