The Courage And Confidence To Be Humorous

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Would you like to have the courage to be humorous? Would you like to be less self-conscious about laughing out loud? Do you know how to tell a joke well? Would you like to be more spontaneous with your sense of humor? Would you like to be funnier?

Would you like to have all this in 3 easy lessons? Forgeddaboutit! You can have all this. It will take effort and time, but it’s not all that complicated.

It seems to me that many, maybe even most, people are inhibited about these things. For some it is because they have been criticized or judged harshly for the sound of the laughter. The criticisms abound: “You laugh too loud… You giggle too much… You cackle… You snort… Nobody likes that kind of laughter.” Et cetera ad nauseum!

Others lack good role models for joke-or-story-telling. Many compare themselves to the great masters of comedy (Carlin, Williams, Carson, Leno, Winters, Ball, Diller, Seinfeld, etc.) and come up short, feeling like failures by comparison.

The first rule of self-esteem: Quit Comparing Yourself to Others. Set reasonable standards for yourself and compare your progress to your own goals.

Remember that courage is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to act in spite of fear or apprehension.

Remember that confidence comes from competence.

To start you on the road to being more funny more spontaneously, here are some great general pointers for developing self-confidence, and specific tips related to being more “in humor”.


The way you perceive yourself influences both your confidence and your performance. When you BELIEVE IN YOURSELF as a valuable person who is on top of your job, motivation increases and the possibility of peak productivity grows. When you believe in your sense of humor and your ability to bring a smile or chuckle to others, you will be funnier, and be valued by others as someone who helps others to lighten up.

Get in the habit of giving yourself a daily ESTEEM BATH by:

1. Positive self-talk. When you look in the mirror each morning, and as you walk through the office door, say to yourself, “I am somebody special! I make a vital contribution to this organization!” “There are many ways and many opportunities for me to share my sense of humor.” List positive statements about yourself on a card. Record your short and long-term goals and objectives. Work with affirmations. Here is a recorded class on the fascinating ancient spiritual wisdom and modern neurological science of affirmations.

2. The Risk/Reward proposition: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. In general, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. For starters, calculate smaller risks. Larger risks can come later. You need to get outside -but not too far outside- of your typical comfort zone. At first, set goals to take small risks every day or every week. Do something you have never done before or said you would never try again. Initiate a conversation with a stranger, eat dinner alone or do some public speaking. Tell a joke or otherwise share some humor with someone you know is friendly. Smile!

Start small. Share your humor with one other person.

3. Confidence comes from competence. Competence comes from study and practice. You learn to be funnier the same way you learn to ride a bicycle: by the ‘wobble method’. Keep a journal of successes and risks which brought rewards. Dig into your past and add to your journal any successes from the past you can recall. Learn from your mistakes and build on your history of coping with obstacles, solving problems, and finding work-arounds. Get feedback from someone you trust; someone who really understands humor.

4. Conquer unrealistic fears by learning the art of relaxation and deep breathing. When confronted with a anxious situations, take slow deep breaths. Do not hold your breath; that will only increase tension. You cannot feel fear and tranquility at the same time.

5. You don’t even have to say a word. Try this in private: Inhale-Smile-Exhale. Repeat several times. Try it while looking at yourself in a mirror. Inhale-Smile-Exhale-With-An-Unforced-Chuckle. Repeat several times. Try it with another person, maybe on an elevator. Make eye-contact but don’t stare! Try to look friendly.

6. Become aware of your appraisals. In any situation you usually make two appraisals. You estimate what’s at stake and you estimate your resources for dealing with the situation. Accurate estimates are important to give you confidence. Do not overestimate what’s at stake, e.g., is this really an emergency? Do not underestimate your resources, e.g., what skills and talents do you bring to the situation? What resources can you tap? Have you been reading up or taking a class on joke-telling? Have you been practicing? If so, you are entitled to feel more confident.

7. At work, develop enthusiasm for your job. The most promotable people find something exciting about their work. Try to discover how your work really fits into the organization and what it really means to the end-user/customer, e.g., welding parts for surgical tables may seem like routine assembly-line work until your realize how many lives are saved on them in hospitals each year. If you fail in this endeavor – if you can’t find one thing rewarding about the job re-evaluate your career goals.

8. Motion creates emotion. Smile. Walk with your head high and your shoulders square. Look people in the eye. Put a spring in your step. Shake hands and introduce yourself. Find your inner warmth and sense of humor and convey them to others. Facial expression can affect emotions. Smile, and place your tongue at the point where your upper teeth meet the roof of your mouth. Hold that for 1-3 minutes. Why it works is too complicated to explain here. Just try it. (Want to learn dozens of quick ways to de-stress?) 

Smile. It increases your face value.

9. Always look your best. Your appearance influences the way you feel. Smile: It increases your face value!

10. Volunteer to help others. Get in the habit of giving just because it feels good. Get in the habit of sharing humor because that feels good, too. Forward funny e-mails. Tweet out a one-liner. Show others humorous greeting cards or cartoons you collected.

11. Read biographies of successful people. Read about the great comedians. Read & collect books of riddles, jokes,a and funny stories.

12. Locate and develop all of your senses of humor; you have several. Become a Humor Powered Person. Read my blog about finding your laughter. Attend self-development workshops. Stand-up comedy classes are not only for performers. They can make you funnier at parties, around the office, with friends, neighbors, and even strangers. Try Jeff Justice or Dave Schwensen

13. Talk to yourself as kindly as you would talk to your best friend. Would you call your best friend ugly, incompetent, fat, or stupid? Then don’t label yourself that way either.

14. Hang out with positive and funny people. People who care about themselves will find it pleasurable to be good to you. Don’t hang around negative people. Two great hangouts are the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor and the International Society for Humor Studies.

15. Get out of the ‘approval business’. Say good-bye to a “victim’s” mentality. Quit focusing on how others have mistreated you. Stop value-judging, i.e., stop approving and disapproving of others. Stop looking to others for approval and you will soon find that other’s opinions of you have less power to bring you down. Do something nice for yourself instead.

Stop tuning in to WOPT (What Other People Think)

16. When faced with failure, say to yourself, “This situation didn’t work out the way I would have liked.” When you succeed, say to yourself, “I am pleased with these results. Good job!” Meet your own standards, don’t compare yourself to others. When you tell a joke or otherwise share some humor (a bumper sticker, forwarded e-mail, a wind-up toy, a funny greeting card) that doesn’t get the laugh you hoped for, your humor may have been fine but just not to the other person’s tastes. It’s different jokes for different folks. Don’t insist that the person laugh. Try it with someone else.

17. Give yourself power by deciding what you can do in problem situations. Build strength through constructive action. Work toward accepting the things you cannot change. But, change the things you can. Read 19 ways to enhance your sense of humor. Take the one-hour recorded class “How to Be Funny(ier) And Tell A Joke”.

18. Nobody has permanently high self-esteem. Nobody is funny every time or all of the time. Self-esteem can fluctuate even during the course of a single day. Your goal should be to have it fluctuate overall at higher rather than lower levels. Everyone is vulnerable to having their self-esteem knocked down. The idea is to practice ways of thinking and doing so that you don’t have extreme swings in self-esteem or self-confidence, and so that when you feel down you don’t stay down for very long.

Whether you want to boost your confidence in general, or your funniness, on or off the job, or both, high levels of self-confidence -and funniness- are something you work at, and it pays off.

This ‘word cloud’ is relevant of the payoff even without a ‘joke’.



About the Author

Steve Wilson

Award-winning psychologist, Steve Wilson, also known as The Joyologist and The Cheerman of the Bored, has spent 30 years specializing in applied and therapeutic humor with a humanitarian mission. As Director of National Humor Month, he intertwines science and ancient wisdom with substance and humor to create practical methods to lead the world to health, happiness and peace through laughter. More than six thousand people have completed his unique training in how to create therapeutic laughter, and tens of thousands more around the world have been uplifted by his talks, classes, books, and articles. He established the World Laughter Tour, Inc., in 1998, to be a rich resource and inspiration for improving productivity, health, and well being in business, healthcare and education. For more information and