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Laughing Under Fire

While walking to my car the other day, I was thinking about the relationships I'm expected to and enjoy building with colleagues. On behalf of my department, I work closely with departments that produce products customers can (and hopefully want to) use, ensuring we think about the product's positioning from the customer's vantage point. People often have strong feelings about the way things should be done and if a shift in approach is needed, trust and patience will be key in the journey ahead.

While I can't imagine I'm the best person in the world at building relationships, a competition of 7 billion feels pretty steep, my gut tells me I'm not quite the worst either. Reflecting on steps I've taken to build relationships and ultimately earn trust, I pondered what universal steps might exist in my approach. Attempts at humor and having a good time seemed to be the common thread. As I mulled this on the drive home, I recalled a statement from film director Tiffany Shlain, "usually, in my films, I will try to make people laugh right before I want them to think deeply. Because when people think they know how they feel about something, their body language, everything is tight. And you make them laugh, and immediately their body opens, and I always feel like I can go in deeper with the idea, or into their heart, or their mind, or both at the same time, hopefully".

At 34 years of age, trying to plug humor into most situations is baked into who I am, assuming the situation allows for it. But reflecting on Shlain's comments made me zero in on it from a practical standpoint at work. Not only is it about having a good time but hopefully about softening a room that can be caught up in busyness, metrics, and agendas. If we can get beyond deep-seated-beliefs, we can have a better shot at evolving.

And to take that one step further and beyond the workplace, what value might laughter play in the face of other hard conversations we're having right now in society? What about searching for moments of laughter around tense racial, social, environmental, and political discussions? This isn't meant to downplay the importance but rather search for a way to get beyond, "I'm right. You're wrong. Shut up"! Might this help us rediscover the humanity in people we don't entirely agree with and work just a little harder to find common ground?

Go Forth Boldly

"Laughter is the best medicine",

said by someone a long time ago

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