The Stress Doc begins a series of essays on a leadership tool not always recognized: the capacity for purposeful and playful (and, yes, sometimes provocative) humor. The series begins by placing humor within the context of his “Passion Power” Model. The Doc begins to lay the ground for the motivating power of psycho-humor, followed by a definition of humor. Finally, the essay begins to flesh out two new concepts: Humor Intelligence and Higher Power Humor. These two concepts will be further developed along with the contrast between humor and wit in subsequent writings. And, of course, this series will build a bridge from the conceptual to real life, “how to” higher power humor application. It should be a fun write and ride! MG
Leading with Passion Power ™: The Art of “Humor Intelligence” ™ and “Higher Power Humor” ™
My “Passion Power” Model outlined a 2x2 matrix comprised of two polar variables: “Cognitive-Affective” (Informational Mode) and “Gravitas-Comedia” (Motivational Mood). The interaction yields “The Four ‘P’s of Passion Power” – being Purposeful-Provocative-Passionate-Playful. (And a recent upgrade: the integration and application of the Four “P”s has you walking the realm of the “Philosophical.”) The model clarifies why and how an integrated, multi-“P” communicator or leader brings uncommon relational, presentational, and performance energy and humorous insights to his or her: a) roles and interactions, b) use of resources and c) individual- and team-coordination and morale and team-oriented results. (Or, to quote a Stress Doc book title: Preserving Human Touch in a Hi-Tech World. As for being self-referential, you know the old saw: Vanity thy name is Gorkin!) In fact, the Passion Power Matrix and this “how to” series is giving birth to two more Stress Doc originals – the concepts of Humor Intelligence and Higher Power Humor.
This series explores the conceptual dynamics and “hands on” application of one of the mind-mood “Passion-Power” dimensions – the “Affective-Comedia” quadrant or being Playful. In particular we will examine how humor can both energize and enlighten play and how being “Playful” becomes the play-ground for “humor.” More specifically, here are foundational concepts along with skills and strategies that belong in every “Humor Intelligent-High-Impact Communicator’s” bag of techniques and tricks. Whether a healer, educator, speaker, trainer or leader (or, for that matter, any adult interacting with family and friends), let the Stress Doc add healing, energizing, and inspiring humor to your “Leading with Passion Power” repertoire.
The Marriage of Psycho-Motivation and Humor
From my perspective, a Four “P” Leader who can purposefully, provocatively, and passionately play is a “Motivational Humorist.” And if you add a psychological bent, then this person is approaching my trademarked label; he or she is becoming a “Psychohumorist” ™. (Naturally, I let the audience decide where the emphasis on that word should go.) For example, the title of my first book, Practice Safe Stress. And, as many of you know, I’m pioneering the field of psychologically humorous rap music and, as a therapist, calling it, of course, Shrink Rap ™ Productions.
As will become abundantly clear, there is a tangible link between using humor as an educational and motivational tool and leadership effectiveness. Let me define humor, contrast humor and wit, and then illustrate “higher power” humor’s functions and interdependent connections with laughing, learning, and leading. And finally, each humor anecdote will become a template or humor roadmap for helping you explore and build your own “Motivational Humorist” pathway.
Definition and Characteristics of Humor
Here’s a dictionary definition of humor. Humor (is) the recognition and expression of the incongruities and peculiarities in a situation or conduct. An ability for humor, especially for professionally intentional and appropriate humor, not only reveals a capacity for key aspects of “Emotional Intelligence; it suggests another category of “intelligence.” I will call this “cognitive-affective-communicative-interactive” ability to employ playful and purposeful humor and wit, “Humor Intelligence” (HI). Characteristics of HI include, the ability to:
- appreciate and walk that often fine line between the comic and tragic, between hopeful and hurtful, and still ingeniously capture and engage with life’s ‘slings and arrows” and absurdities,
- understand social-emotional vulnerability and grandiosity,
- exaggerate (or underplay) “reality” or the “obvious”; purposefully use and confuse the literal and the metaphorical,
- view events from multiple (often silly and surprising) perspectives, especially conveying the emotional side of life – from melancholy to mania – not only by laugh lines but through all manner of nonverbal expression,
- poke (mostly) gentle fun at others’ self-defeating or self-serving behavior and, especially,
- to laugh at our own flaws and foibles.
Four “H” Functions of Higher Power Humor
The purposeful and playful, creative yet thoughtful and discriminating exercise of “Humor Intelligence,” along with the capacity to laugh and learn from our flaws and foibles as we explore and engage with HI, lays the groundwork for “Higher Power Humor.” Consider these four higher power functions:
1. Hostility-disarming: this can occur by deflating an aggressor’s pride or weaponry, by creating emotional distance between the aggressor and target, or by building up the target’s esteem and confidence; the target is now less reactive to an antagonist’s provocation
2. Healing: first and foremost, this humor function helps an individual clean both physical and, especially, psychological wounds with tears of laughter and self-acceptance; one begins to let go of a sense of false or reactive pride and resentment; with renewed energy, confidence, and positivity you begin to more easily poke fun at your own embarrassing mistakes and missteps
3. Harnessing: this humor helps recover and discover new-found energy; depending on the social-psychological context, the hearty laughter release of endorphins and dopamine may both calm or arouse an individual or a group; such laughter, especially when shared, fuels new acceptance, motivation, and vision, supporting and challenging engagement, liberation, and risk-taking; two quotes come to mind:
- the psychiatrist, Dr. Ernst Kris, observed: What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at.
- the Stress Doc’s inversion: What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master!
4. Harmonizing: this function helps break down social and psychological status barriers, rigid assumptions, and prejudices between individuals; it also opens up channels of communication and cooperation within and between groups; a humor that fosters group healing enables both individuals and the group as a whole to bring out their best music; harmonizing humor uplifts communities!
And the best “higher power,” humorists artfully blend verbal and nonverbal gesture, all manner of vocal and facial expression, (along with costumery), in their playful yet purposeful, passionate and provocative communication and problem-solving performance. And humor travels well: from face face-to-face, small- or large-group presentation to webinars and podcasts. The Stress Doc’s motto: Have Stress? Will Travel: A Smart Mouth for Hire!