You watch your hilarious colleague or boss make the client roar with laughter while you struggle to chime in with a witty remark or even a funny quip. This is the norm for most people. We could be hilarious with our friends or family members but when it comes to business partners or clients, we’ve somehow lost our funny bone.
When people meet someone who can make them laugh and enjoy a good conversation, it’s therapeutic. Life is stressful, and people are carrying a lot of pain with them. There are very little things we can actually control in life, and a lot of things to be depressed about. If you’re able to use humour in business meetings, you could change the trajectory of your meetings.
If you manage to make your counterparts laugh on a regular basis, then you've hit the jackpot because people would just want to be around you. You become the person with good vibes and an energy that draws others and makes them feel good. You’re sort of like Santa Claus who brings a sack full of laughter.
This would be great, of course, but can we all be funny? I get that some people are funnier than others, but I don’t believe that anyone is just born funny. Humour is an art that can be developed. Some people develop it more easily or naturally than others but it’s still something that can be developed practically.
I’ll give you a backbone for making your conversations more humorous in the next chapter. For now, I want to highlight what not to do when you’re building relationships through humour. Get rid of old habits and mindsets so that you can start building new ones that leave trails of laughter while signing your deals and achieving your business outcomes.
People are often afraid of taking risks in conversations or they try to keep it safe, and that’s why they never become funny. You don’t have to always stay in the sensitive zone. You can joke about their country and yours too. Start by cracking jokes on your own nationality, and then you can sort of take a jab at theirs too.
Of course, please take risks within reason. Keep it positive, don’t crack a joke at the cost of someone else. Don’t crack jokes on family, kids, religion, looks, size, appearance or specific political views that are uncommon. Stay away from that at an early stage. You can make a tongue-in-cheek remark though. For instance, if you know that the person you’re talking to is a Trump supporter and he or she is working on a festival that has sort of dipped, then you can joke “Let’s Make it Great Again”. You can even perhaps crack a joke on their accent or pronunciation if you think they would receive it well. You need to observe how they respond and adjust accordingly.
Crack jokes and then bounce back to serious conversations. You can fall back on the joke again later if there’s an opportunity but don’t drag out the joke for too long. Be on task about building good conversations and allow the jokes to slip in when there are good opportunities.
When you enter a conversation, let the other person talk first, and then you come in. Based on what they share, you can in some way, start throwing darts to see what sticks. Follow the ones that stick and double down on them. If you’re unable to break into anything based on what they shared, then get into a short 2-minute monologue about one of your own funny experiences. They’ll appreciate your efforts in trying to make conversation and keeping it light-hearted. Just be sure to give them the opportunity to speak first before you break into your monologue.
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Former CEO | Chief Business Officer - Middle East
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