5.7.10 Issue #426 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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It's a Laughing Matter

Laughter is the best medicine. Yes it’s a cliché, but we know that humor is a great tool to help us cope with life. Studies show that laughter produces biochemical changes in the body that affect the immune, endocrine, respiratory, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal systems. Laughter releases natural painkillers that combat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

The notion that laughter possesses healing powers was popularized by former magazine editor Norman Cousins. In his book Anatomy of an Illness, he recounted how, armed with humor, he was able to overcome the debilitating symptoms of a crippling spinal disease. Minutes of a good belly laugh, he says, produced several hours of pain-free sleep.

Laughter can have huge benefits for your team because laughter is a social phenomenon. People are more likely to respond with laughter when they are with others than when they are alone. Most laughter is not so much about humor as it is about relationships. Those curious “ha-ha-ha’s” connect us. Research by Robert Provine at the University of Maryland found that most laughter does not follow jokes. In actuality people laughed after a variety of statements that were not jokes.

The Yale School of Management did a study about how one's mood can affect the work environment. It was found that "emotions spread like viruses” with cheerfulness and warmth at the top of the list. The study also stated that "in any work setting, the sound of laughter signals the group's emotional temperature, offering one sure sign that people's hearts as well as their minds are engaged."

If laughter can have that kind of effect on health, imagine what it might do to dental team performance. We know that stress can interfere with how employees function on the job – interrupted focus, depleted motivation, and reduced problem-solving abilities to name a few. But laughter helps us to maintain healthy perspective. Humor and laughter facilitate positive social interactions. It is the one form of communication to which everyone can relate. You don’t have to speak the same language to laugh together. Laughter also helps break the ice in groups. At its best, laughter builds bridges between people.

Many of the issues that you and your team face at work are outside your control – late cancellations or no-shows, difficult patients, increasing business costs. As long as you have a sense of humor, however, you can do something to minimize the hold that upsetting situations can have over you. When you feel as if you’re losing control, allow a little humor time. If you can find what’s funny in a situation, your distress might not seem as strong. We all know the relief we feel when someone in a group makes a funny comment during a tense situation. Humor can dispel anger and aggression in ourselves and others. Victor Borge said it best - “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

Humor is an important, but often overlooked, tool for team building. This doesn’t necessarily mean telling jokes, unless that is one of your talents. It means beginning to share your humorous perspective and giving others permission to do the same. A good sense of humor is something everyone can work on. It doesn’t just happen. Here are some ideas to help add more laughter to your team.

  • Use humor to prepare folks or a fun and engaging team meeting. Ask your employees for the funniest movie they’ve ever seen. Consider having employees bring a clip to show at every staff meeting.
  • Share examples of things that make you laugh or that you find humorous, and encourage your employees to do the same.
  • In groups of two or three, select a difficult or annoying situation, such as being stuck in traffic, waiting in line or come up with your own “most frustrating office stressor.” Ask each pair or triad to construct a funny story out of this situation and exchange with the team.
  • Develop comedic vision. Look for the humor in every situation. Learn to laugh at the incongruities of life. Learn to laugh at yourself and model a light-hearted style to your staff and look for the funny side. You will experience a special joy of accomplishment that only a lively, generous sense of humor can bring. Tell a funny story and you may get one back.
  • Celebrate what works. Rather than agonizing over what’s broken or not working any more, celebrate what is working. If you have a bad day or a family difficulty, try a positive approach. Humor can increase your capacity for solving problems and help you acknowledge your victories in life.
  • Surround yourself with humor and make it a daily ritual. Clip cartoons, collect funny sayings, gather humorous video and audio tapes. Share these with your team. Display cartoons throughout the office.

Laughter is one of the finest, most economical ways to build your team. Infuse humor into your office and inspire your team. You may be amazed how it helps to connect the employees in your practice. Remember, he who laughs, lasts.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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