Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Later this year I'm going to co-author an academic paper on coaching and humour. I'm really interested in this subject and try when I'm coaching to introduce humour and laughter into the process. I find it's a great way to build rapport. Rapport is defined as 'a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate well' - what's not to like about that? Laughing, telling jokes, looking at funny videos and images like the one in this blog can, I think, be a useful way to engage in a coaching relationship.
In fact, I'm sure of it because the people I coach tell me so. It's funny though when I have mentioned it to some coaches I've had a more cautious - teeth sucking - sometimes head-shaking response. Humour, laughter, joy and compassion are all basic human traits, we couldn't exist as human beings without them. Every culture uses humour and laughter as a way to engage people and create like-minded communities, or make a serious point. Ricky Gervais is a master at it, just look at his video for Comic Relief; Being a successful comedian is a serious business these days.
Now I'm not advocating comedy in coaching, well not yet anyway - however I have researched this important area in the leadership and executive coaching context and I am advocating that a serious relationship including the coaching relationship should allow for the possibility of laughter, including outright belly laughter. Serious Humour and Playfullnes when used wisely is a truly enriching way to release emotion, including negative emotion, that can build up unhelpfully in our daily lives and in the ontological sense, if used skilfully, can change the whole 'state of being' of a person.
It can also be a way to elicit limits of the possible within the coaching relationship with a comedic tease or nudge in a certain direction. It is a very useful way for parties to build trust and establish a whole new level of engagement. Humour is prevalent in sports coaching and sports team building and there is much research on the subject but less so in the organisational context, something I'd like to fix and hear more about if you have ideas or suggestions.
As an aside, I've collected a lot of short and very funny and always relevant video clips that I sometimes use to coach. It allows pe
ople to re-frame, to see the situations, themselves and others differently. Where there may have been trauma or difficulty in the past, some of my coachees now laugh about it. Sounds a bit Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, well that may be true - I've had enough of that to be an expert and now I'm going to share the love.
Also, check out this amazing short film based on the Radio 4 Ideas - Programme Why do Humans Laugh to find out more.
I intend to blog more on the subject and I'd love to hear your views.