The power of the giggle, the chortle, the snort!

Grasp the Power of Humor —

Use it to build connection and health

By Karyn Buxman

July First is International Joke Day 😊

What’s the sound of 8 billion people laughing? World peace. And what better way to give peace a chance than International Joke Day! Yes, there really is such a thing and it’s on July 1st. If
children ruled the world, everyday would be International Joke Day. But many of us need to be reminded to lighten up, have fun, and double over laughing with our friends. (Can you recall
the last time that you laughed so hard your face hurt?

If you’re still trying to remember when…keep reading!)

We’re hardwired to laugh

As a neurohumorist, I’ve spent the last 30 years studying the intersection of humor and the brain — and one of the coolest things I discovered is that people are hardwired to laugh. It’s in our very DNA. Babies who are born blind and deaf still laugh. It’s part of what makes us human. While there are studies that suggest rats laugh when they’re tickled, they don’t laugh at
jokes (don’t ask me how I know this). 😊 Needing insurance is like needing a parachute. If it isn´t there the first time, chances are you won´t be needing it again.

Laughter has no accent

Regardless of our race, gender, religion, or Facebook status — if we’re born healthy, we begin smiling at around two months old. It’s a riot to watch adults make silly faces and goofy sounds
all for the grand payoff of getting a baby to smile. And about a month after smiling takes place comes the baby’s laughter! I don’t know about you, but I don’t think there is any sound more
beautiful (or contagious) in the world than a baby’s laugh. As we grow up in our different cultures, what makes us laugh starts to become more diverse. The words we use to create our jokes take on different sounds and cadences. But close your eyes and listen to someone laugh. You can’t tell a person’s color or ethnic background, if they’re rich or poor, or if they’re fully insured or uninsured!

😊 “Humor is the universal solvent against the abrasive elements of life. It breaks down barriers and helps us find common ground.”

~Allen Klein

Not all jokes are created equal

While our laughter may sound the same, what makes us laugh is different. And here’s where you, as an insurance professional, are going to want to start giving this some serious thought. (I know that taking humor seriously sounds like a paradox, but bear with me.) Almost every joke has a target. Some are more subtle than others. Some jokes are gentle (cue the Dad jokes…). And some
are deadly (Google Charlie Hebdo). Generally speaking, men tend to lean more toward jokes while women tend to lean more toward funny stories. When I poll my audiences as to who are good joke tellers, only a small percentage raise their hands. Many can’t remember the punch line, or their delivery goes on and on (and on) basically killing the joke. But I believe anyone could benefit
from learning at least one short joke. Find one that resonates, practice it out loud at least seven times, and then try it out on your kids, your colleagues, and your Uber driver. I can assure you there are times when a quick joke comes in handy. Here are a few to get you started.

🌝Why did the golfer wear two pairs of pants? In case she got a hole in one!
😊 I ordered a chicken and an egg online. I’ll let you know which comes first.
😊 What kind of cheese isn’t your cheese? Nacho cheese.|
🌝 I always take life with a grain of salt. And a slice of lemon. And a shot of tequila.
😞😢 What do you call a sad cup of coffee? Depresso.

DEI and humor

Using humor in your sales approach can help build rapport with your clients – and strengthen your bond over time. Because you’re using humor to influence, and not to entertain, you have a different set of guidelines than that of a comedian. The goal of a standup comic is to get their audience to laugh. Almost anything is fair game as long as they get a laugh.
Your goal, however, is to influence others. And your success isn’t measured in laughs per minute. Your success is measured by how much your client trusts you and how willing they are to buy from you. Different goals—different rules. If a comic offends their audience, the audience member can leave or change the channel. If YOU offend YOUR audience, they can also leave—and take their business with them. Are you willing to risk it? Think about diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) when sharing a joke to make your humor more successful. Taking the time to know more about your prospect’s or client’s background, culture, education, likes and dislikes can prevent stepping on unnecessary landmines.

😊🌝🌝 What’s Forrest Gump’s password? 1forrest1

Why bother?

We’ve known since before Biblical times that laughter is good for us. However, the field of applied and therapeutic humor is relatively new in comparison to other fields in science.
😊 “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” ~ Proverbs 17:22

You may have heard the story of Norman Cousins who reversed his painful and potentially terminal illness with the help of his friend, Allen Funt. (If don’t recognize the name
Allen Funt, go to YouTube and search for Candid Camera.) Cousins made laughter a significant part of his therapeutic regime and made a complete recovery. In 1979 Cousins published his experience in his book, Anatomy of an Illness, and subsequently the field of psychoneuroimmunology (aka mind body connection) became mainstream. Now scientists around the world demonstrate that humor isn’t just good medicine—it’s amazing!

Physical Wellbeing

We’ve known for years that stress takes its toll on us. It can pound every system in our body and fan the flames of all sorts of diseases. But great news: for every body system that stress affects negatively, humor can affect positively.

Here are a few:
• Cardiovascular system: can lower blood pressure and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol).
• Musculoskeletal system: can reduce muscle tension in your back, shoulders, jaw, even your stomach muscles (ever laughed so hard you had to lean forward and hold on to a chair?!).
• Immune system: can boost white blood cells which fight infection, natural killer (NK) cells which help fight microbial infections and several types of tumors, as well as immunoglobulins (IgA is especially helpful in respiratory infections). Humor has also been shown to help with autoimmune diseases such as eczema.
• Endocrine: In persons who are pre-diabetic or diabetic, humor can lower blood glucose levels as well as lower renin and angiotensin, which are proteins that can cause kidney damage.
• In my TedX Talk on YouTube, “How Humor Saved the World,” I go into more detail about humor even being linked to changes at the level of DNA—epigenetics!

Psychological Wellbeing

Tricky traffic, cranky clients, daunting deadlines…you can feel anxious just thinking about these things. It’s called an anticipatory response. But get this—humor lowers anxiety, decreases anger, and has even been shown to help with depression. And humor also has an anticipatory response. Just thinking about something funny can counteract your body’s stress response, leaving you thinking more clearly and feeling happier.

😊 The patient told his doctor, “I can’t figure out what’s wrong with me. First, I feel like a wigwam. Then I feel like a teepee.”
The doctor replied, “It’s nothing serious. You’re two tents.”

Social Wellbeing

We have a new epidemic that you may not have heard about. It’s not spread through in-person contact. In fact, quite the opposite. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has declared an epidemic on loneliness and isolation. This issue, which was already a serious problem for many seniors and millennials, was exacerbated by Covid. This social challenge continues taking a huge toll.
“Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an underappreciated public health crisis that has harmed individual and societal health. Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight — one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.

Fortunately, one of the benefits of humor is connection.
Sharing a laugh creates a social bond. Strategically using humor to connect with others can help decrease your clients’ isolation. It’s also good news for you when creating connections with
potential clients or strengthening your connection with existing clients.

😊 “Laughter’s the shortest distance between two people.”
~Victor Borge

SEE funny

It’s actually more important to SEE funny than to BE funny! If you practice the seeing funny the being funny will fall into place. Here’s one quick way and a short cut into the power of humor – raise your awareness. Ask yourself, “what’s funny around here? What am I missing? If you intentionally start listening for humor, you’ll find it.” When I ask my audiences or coaching clients what’s holding them back from using more humor, one frequent response is “I’m not funny.” My answer? “Great!”

Remember, when you’re an entertainer, it’s your job to be funny. But when you’re an influencer, [KB1] your job is creating and maintaining relationships. You do this by leveraging humor.
You don’t have to be the source of the laughs. You can use memes, videos, props, other people’s stories, and so much more.  The trick is to recognize and leverage the humor around you. It’s
more important to SEE funny than BE funny! Which takes me to the next frequently heard protest:
“There’s nothing funny happening in my life.” Listen…if that’s your belief, that’s your reality. If you believe there’s nothing funny around you, I can promise you that you’re not going to recognize something funny even if it gets up and wiggles in your face.

As you go through your day, ask yourself, “What’s funny?”
It will take a little time to rewire your brain, but soon a part of your brain called the reticular activating system (RAS) will start to show you more of what you’re focusing on. You’ll begin seeing and hearing things that other people miss. Like…

😊🌝 The sign in the coffee shop that says, “Children left unattended will be given an espresso and a free puppy.”
Or the father with 4 kids in tow who asks the Miami hotel clerk, “Which beach is closest to the water?”

Or people with funny names like Chris P. Bacon or Krystal Ball or Jed I. Knight. Heard of Rusty Nails or Dusty Rhodes?
You don’t have to make this stuff up!

Humor by choice—not chance

Be proactive. Don’t just wait and hope that something funny will happen. Seek humor from your clients, your colleagues, your barista! The world is your oyster. You’ll score points
bigtime if you ask your client, Mrs. Smith, “What’s the funniest thing your grandson ever said?” Or ask your longtime colleague,
“What’s the craziest thing a client’s ever asked you?” Or ask your barista, “What’s the weirdest coffee order you’ve ever gotten?” People say and do the funniest things.

😨 “Gimme a trenti iced coffee, 12 pumps [sugar-free] vanilla, 12 pumps [sugar-free] hazelnut, 12 pumps [sugar-free] caramel, 5 pumps skinny mocha, a splash of soy, coffee to the
star on the siren’s head, ice, double-blended!”

Starbucks Barista: This is my first 41-pump-customer!

Ask folks to share with you. And here’s something you may not have thought about: Because you asked someone to share something funny with you, they will see you as having a sense
of humor — even though you never said anything funny. And a sense of humor is a highly desirable trait in agents, customers, coworkers, bosses, vendors, and soul mates (more on that in a
separate article!).

😊 Eddie Valiant: “Seriously, what do you see in that guy?”
Jessica Rabbit: “He makes me laugh.”

Play it forward

If you acted on the previous step and collected some funny jokes and stories, now it’s time to play it forward. There are so many ways to share your comedy gold. As you grow your collection of humor (and DO keep these valuables in a safe place!), you now have a repertoire to pull from when meeting with clients, holding a team meeting, or giving a presentation. When you share your humor with others, you are dousing their brains with hits of oxytocin and dopamine — and those feel great!

😊 My new colleagues are so much fun, they write names on all the food. Yesterday, I ate a yogurt named ‘Susan’; how cute is that?

Humor is power

People want to do business with someone who can solve their problems, but all things being equal, they prefer to do business with someone they know, like and trust. Humor has the power to create familiarity, likability, and confidence. When you share a goodhearted laugh, everyone wins. And just think…if everyone on this planet found one bit of humor they could share, then International Joke Day would be just another day, and we could relish the sound of 8 billion people laughing.

😨 My wife told me to stop impersonating a flamingo. I had to put my foot down.
😊 I used to have a handle on life, but then it broke.
☹ I was addicted to the hokey pokey, but then I turned myself around.
🌝 People who use selfie sticks really need to have a good, long look at themselves.
😢 ‘Doctor, there’s a patient on line one that says she’s invisible.’ ‘Well, tell her I can’t see her right now.’

KARYN BUXMAN CSP, CPAE, is CEO and founder of
She is a TEDx speaker, successful author, and neuro humorist (she lives at the intersection of humor and the brain.) A pioneer in the emerging science of applied humor, Karyn helps high performers expand their influence, strengthen their relationships, and boost their resilience. She’s one of 265 people (and only 58 women) in the world to be inducted into the National Speakers Association’s Speaker Hall of Fame. While addressing the Million Dollar Round Table Karyn once unified an international audience of over 10,000 insurance professionals from 78 countries with laughter that transcended the language barrier. Karyn is serious about humor!


Buxman was a 2023 Ellevate Foundation Women’s Leadership Summit Keynote Speaker.

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