Making Mirth at Meetings
Are your company meetings a source of inspiration, or perspiration? A shared laugh can kick off a meeting on a positive note by breaking tension, promoting teamwork, sparking creativity, and opening up a greater possibility for agreements. It could be in the form of a joke, story, cartoon, or an exercise. According to Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, there are only two human activities that create total brain symmetry, i.e. completely connect the brain’s left side (logical side) with the right side (creative side). Those two activities are – laughter, and sex. Since you’re not likely to start your meeting with sex, why not commence with mirth and laughter?
An injection of humor at staff meetings can also be used to effectively make a point. In the mid-1970s, the Ford Motor Company went through a period where the accountants took over and influenced the closure of manufacturing plants left and right in order to cut costs. They had already succeeded in shutting down facilities in Massachusetts and Texas, and were clearly relishing their emerging power. Robert McNamara, who was president at the time, called a meeting of his top executives to discuss the possible closure of yet another plant. The forecast from the accountants was so grim that nobody would dare speak up, except for a cheeky old veteran named Charlie Beacham, who quipped, “why don’t we close down all the plants, then we’ll really start saving money.” They all roared with laughter, and the decision was made to postpone any more closings. Charlie’s satirical comment put the company’s state of affairs into perspective, and the bean counters went back to working for the company instead of running it.
David Lewis, a Los Angeles attorney, shared an experience with me of defusing a tense moment with humor. He was in negotiations for the purchase of a large office building, and it was going on night and day, very hard. “One night it came to one of those tense moments when two of the men on opposite sides of the table were arguing about the height requirement for the urinals in the men’s room. One of them was insisting it was 30 inches, while the other was screaming, ‘No, it’s 36 inches!’ They were heaving verbal grenades back and forth, when I interrupted and said, ‘Gentlemen, I think we’re in danger of getting into a pissing contest.’ They began laughing uncontrollably. It broke the tension and really did resolve the whole situation. They realized that it didn’t make any difference anyway.”
There are times when it’s inappropriate to inject humor at a meeting. You can still access it without saying a word, via visualization. One time I was about to lock horns with a rabid meeting planner over contract issues. I decided to visualize the person wearing purple polka dot boxer shorts as the negotiations ensued. This allowed me to relax and detach from the tempestuous personality of the other person. In fact, my calmer demeanor made him calmer, and I ended up getting almost everything I had asked; with it came the realization that humor allows me to be patient, before I become a patient.
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Excerpt from the Amazon best selling book,
“When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
by Terry Braverman
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