“I learned at an early age that when I made people laugh, they liked me.” – Art Buchwald

This is a continuation of a series of how to capture attention online and in person with intriguing communication.

Tip #3 in the series is to Make ’em Laugh.

It’s based on the premise that we’ve got 30 seconds MAX to capture busy people’s attention. One of the best ways to do that? Get people to smile, chuckle or laugh out loud.

I told that to one client who had flown in for the weekend to consult with me on how to scale her business to the next level. She is aleady a highly successful keynote speaker and consultant in the healthcare industry, but knows she’s leaving money on the table. She is also really, really serious.

She said, “Sam, I’m not funny.”

I said, “Want good news? You don’t have to be. Other people are funny and you can hook and hinge their one-liners (with attribution) to your topic so you preface ‘aha’s’ with ‘haha’s.'”

She said, “But I’m not good at telling jokes.”

I told her, “Good, because that’s NOT what I’m talking about. Jokes come across as ‘canned’ and they often backfire. What I’m talking about is taking a one-liner that’s relevant to your topic and starting off with it to get a SMILE that favorably predisposes people to like you and what you say next.”

For example, if you’re talking about procrastination, you could quote Judy Tenuta, “My parents always told me I wouldn’t amount to anything because I procrastinated so much. I told ’em, ‘Just you wait.'”

Then, segue into your subject, “Are you waiting to schedule that physical exam? Are you procrastinating on seeing your doctor because you hope that ache will go away? Well, in today’s program . . . ”

I also told her, “When something funny happens to you, write it down, and figure out how you can include it in your work.”

For example, I was in the San Francisco airport, riding one of those ‘lazy sidewalks’ on the long walkway to the gates. I noticed a very tall man walking toward me. I couldn’t believe it. People in front of me were pointing at him and laughing. I thought, ‘How rude!’

As he got closer, I could see why they were laughing. He had on a t-shirt that said in very large letters, “No, I’m NOT a basketball player.”

I turned to say something to him and laughed out loud as soon as I saw the back of his t-shirt. It said, “Are you a jockey?”

I had to meet this Fun Fu! black belt. I got off the lazy sidewalk and raced back to catch up with him. I complimented him on his great sense of humor and asked, “Where’d you get your shirt?”

He smiled and said, “I grew a foot between the ages of 13 and 16. I didn’t even want to go out of the house because I was so self-conscious and everyone had to make a smart aleck remark.

My mom finally said, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.’ She’s the one who made this shirt for me. This is nothing. I’ve got a whole drawer-full of these at home. My favorite says, “I’m 6’13 and the weather up here’s fine.”

The point?

I use this story in my Tongue Fu! presentations to illustrate the power of having a clever, noncombative comeback for sensitive issues. If you’re tall, short, fat, skinny, bald or have acne; you’re going to hear about it. You might as well develop a repertoire of Fun Fu! remarkes so you can have fun with that issue instead of being frustrated by it.

As Erma Bombeck said, “If you can laugh at it; you can live with it.”

Next time, you’re communicating about a serious or sensitive issue, preface it with humor. People will be a lot more likely to like and listen to what you have to say.

Edward de Bono said, “It has always surprised me how little attention people pay to the power of humor since it is a more persuasive process of mind than reason. Reason can only sort out perecptions, humor changes them.”

Agreed. Would you like to learn how to use Fun Fu! to capture and keep attention for your work? Check out my books Tongue Fu!® and POP!
Both have chapters on how to use humor to get people’s favorable attention. Read ’em and reap.

I had an opportunity last week to Emcee a conference at Microsoft and to deliver the opening keynote. There were more than 150 high-level female managers from Oracle, KPMG, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Wells Fargo, Semantech, Deloitte, etc.

The topic was CLOUT! Power, Influence and Authority for Women Leaders. Based on interviews with executives across the country, I shared 10 Behaviors that Undermine Clout — and 10 Behaviors that Add Clout.

One of the points was the power of lightening up instead of tightening up.

Many of the male decision-makers I talked with told me they feel women in upper ranks tend to take themselves too seriously. Perhaps they’re so intent on proving themselves, they lose their ability to take a a joke.

I illustrated the advantage of rolling with the punch-lines rather than taking offense with the following example.

Have you seen the movie Charlie Wilson’s War with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts?

Charlie Wilson was a Texas legislator. As a Washington Post article revelaed, Wilson arrived in Congress with his cowboy boots and big booming laugh. He soon met another freshman Democrat — Colorado feminist Patricia Schroeder — and sent her a gift. She opened it and found a picture in a pink frame which showed a tombstone that read “Wife of Davy Crockett.” He had included a note that read: “In Texas, we don’t even let women use their first name on their tombstones.”

Schroeder thought, ‘Who IS this Neanderthal?” and stormed into his office to give him a piece of her mind. The second he saw her march in, Wilson burst out laughing. She realized, “He’s spent his whole life figuring out how to pull people’s chains — and now he’s pulling mine.”

She started laughing too and they became fast friends. After that he called this high-profile feminist “Baby cakes” – except on formal occasions, when he addressed her as “Congressman Babycakes.”

Pearl S. Buck said, “Perhaps one has to become very old before one learns how to be amused rather than offended.”

Why wait?

If someone is trying to “get your goat,” it’s in your best interest to give as good as you get. Come up with a come-back so people can’t push your hot buttons. Once you demonstrate you have the ability to take a joke, people will laugh with you rather than at you.