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  • Writer's pictureCris Gladly

When Things Get Tense At Work ... Have A Laugh!

Updated: Jul 29, 2019

I love the Irish proverb: "A good laugh and a long sleep are two of the best cures for anything."

It applies well to all situations, personal and professional. In fact, one of THE fastest and most effective ways to defuse those emotionally contentious conversations that crop up at work is to... LAUGH! (Note: laugh with each other, not at each other.)

When conflict starts, our instinct is either to: (a) avoid it, which solves nothing -OR- (b) dive straight in and hash things out from every possible angle, which escalates tension and everyone's emotional reactivity.

But here's the thing: Once our 'threat response' is activated in the limbic system, proper functioning in the frontal cortex DIMINISHES (e.g. rational thinking, effective decision making, etc).

So, while hard conversations still need to happen, they cannot happen effectively until the tense emotional energy is actually dissipated first.

The fastest way to do this is to LAUGH! Here's what happens when we 'ha ha ha!':

  1. The brain releases positive endorphins which shut down cortisol, which helps everyone's brain chemistry reset. = "Ahhh, that's better!"

  2. Laughter lets everyone pause briefly and reorient to the actual GOAL: "Oh right, this isn't a death match in Thunder Dome, we're just trying to agree on a project deadline." #perspective

  3. We see each other as PEOPLE again! Authentic laughter restores warmth, trust, humanity, and a sense of belonging.

Phew! Shake it off. ... NOW you can continue that important conversation.

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