Make them laugh
Whoever the audience, whatever the topic it helps if you can make
them laugh. Humour can defuse a tense situation and it’s hard to stay
angry if you’re smiling. People like a laugh and they like people who
make them laugh. But it’s risky as the PM found out. Service cuts and
redundancies are no laughing matter so your joke may be seen as
flippant and be taken to show you neither understand the implications
for your audience nor care. Three things to remember first it’s not
how funny the joke is it’s how appropriate it is. Second, making a
joke at your own expense shows you have a sense of humour at someone
else’s expense shows you are insensitive. Third, people laugh at the
bosses jokes even if they are not funny.
When it goes horribly wrong, not only don’t they laugh but they get
upset, saying it was only a joke is not a good defence. To then accuse
the offended person of lacking a sense of humour just proves how
insensitive you are.
Those guilty of sexist ,racist and homophobic remarks often claim
they were only joking and say the person who complains is being” over
sensitive” and even” other people thought it was funny”. As someone
who has chaired many disciplinary hearing if that’s your defence
expect the worst.
The advice to managers is clear don’t make inappropriate jokes, only
tell funny stories at your own expense and if you upset some of your
audience apologise immediately. Otherwise you risk being considered a
bit of a comedian and not a very funny one at that.