To build our conversational capacity and use it to facilitate constructive change in our teams, organizations, and communities, we need to do more than just balance candor and courage with curiosity and humility. Another important balance to strike is between serious-mindedness and light-heartedness.
We don’t just rush into important situations with our thought-process half-cocked, making sense or making decisions in a casual, half-assed manner. We respond in a rigorous, serious-minded way. We’re disciplined, deliberate, and careful as we strive to make useful sense of the predicament we’re facing and how to improve it.
But, at the same time we remain light-hearted and humorous. We focus on the funny moments, not just the frustrating ones. “There’s a humorous side to every situation,” said George Carlin. “The challenge is to find it.” With this in mind we pay attention to the ironies and absurdities in a situation, not just the irritations and dysfunctions.
Most important, we’re not afraid to laugh at our self and the predicament we’re facing. Humor lowers defensiveness, and, when directed inward, is a powerful guard against arrogance, self-deception, and narcissism.
Capable of holding both attitudes at once, we both recognize the gravity of an issue and still laugh at how we and others are responding to it. This balance fosters an atmosphere that lowers defensiveness and increases learning—and in an adaptive context learning is the key to progress.
As you proceed through life, following your own path, birds will shit on you. Don’t bother to brush it off. Getting a comedic view of your situation gives you spiritual distance.
Having a sense of humor saves you.
– Joseph Campbell
It’s for this reason that people and groups with high conversational capacity tend to laugh more. Less ego-driven, uptight, and self-protective—and more purpose-driven, vulnerable, and self-possessed, they’re able to remain light-hearted and learning-focused even when things go sideways.
This makes their conversations and meetings not just more effective—they’re often far more fun.
(Adapted from Influence In Action: How To Build Your Conversational Capacity, Do Meaningful Work, and Make a Powerful Difference (McGraw-Hill, 2019).
Originally published on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/balancing-serious-mindedness-light-heartedness-craig-weber/