What’s Your Humor Style? (And why you should care)

If you agree that we need more levity in law practice, raise your hand.

No one I know went to law school to be unhappy in the legal profession.

And research agrees. Students enter law school with the same degree of optimism and idealism as students in other professions, yet law students’ subjective wellbeing begins to decline by the middle of the first year of law school.

Sobering. Most agree that we need systemic change in legal education and the profession.

In the meantime, it’s up to us.

Enter the book I wish I’d written. (We all have one of those, right?)

Something I’ve long found to be useful, and believe could make a difference in practice, is humor.

And now there’s research from Stanford (they really do all of the fun stuff) neatly packed into a wonderful new book titled, Humor, Seriously—Why Humor is a Secret Weapon in Business and in Life, by Jennifer Aaker & Naomi Bagdonas.

What does this have to do with the legal profession?

We take ourselves too darn seriously. Yes, the practice of law is a serious profession. And that’s why we need humor even more.

The Good Stuff

Humor boosts mental agility, problem solving, performance, creative thinking, trust, and resilience. Humor also fosters connections, lowers stress, deflates a fight, removes tension from a room (plenty of that to go around), alleviates pain, and keeps us healthier.

Research shows that along with boosting power and status, humor makes us look smart. (Do I have your attention now?)

Why should the legal professionals care? In addition to the laundry list above, humor builds more effective, innovative firms.

So now what?

Identify your humor style.

Didn’t know you have one? Neither did I.

If it doesn’t immediately jump out at you when you look at the sketch above (from pg.33 in the book), you can take the Humor Styles Questionnaire at humorseriously.com.

Here’s a quick snapshot:

The authors’ say a Sweetheart’s humor has an optimistic bent that’s “subtle” and “cheerful” and stays away from teasing.

Like the Sweetheart, the Sniper’s humor is subtle, but that’s where the two, part ways. Snipers are “edgy, sarcastic and nuanced,” unafraid to cross line in pursuit of a laugh. (You know who you are.)

Magnets boost people moods while avoiding controversy and radiating charisma. Magnets are generous and like to entertain. (Hear that, improv folks?)

Stand-ups are “natural entertainers” who aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers for a laugh. With few topics off limits, cursing, dark humor, pranks and roasts are all kosher. (Shout-out to the stand-ups; they pick me up, when I’m not feeling it)

And all of this (and more) is based on years of serious research.

No kidding.