Boost Training with a 3-Letter Word

You don't have to tell jokes to boost training results with humor. You do have to be willing and able to have fun. That's an order.


In our previous show...

Last month we looked at the serious side of humor - the research proving that humor makes us think, learn and work better. If you need convincing, click on the link at the end of this article to last month's empirical humdinger.

This month, I promised some "how-to" tips for making your training more fun and, as a result, more meaningful, effective, engaging and memorable.

When does the world laugh with you?

What's the safest subject to poke fun at? If you pointed at yourself you're right.

I'm 5'1" tall on a humid day. When I want to write something on a flip chart I pick the tallest guy in the room to help. I lead the discussion and he writes down the points made by the audience. I advise that he's my Vanna - like Vanna White on the Wheel of Fortune. He's the tall good looking one and I'm Pat Sajak - the short, smart one. People laugh. When they're laughing they're open, engaged, connected - all good states for learning.

I once saw a balding, middle aged, DT instructor get a laugh and the attention of his Gen X and Y recruits by pointing to his head and declaring,

You see that! You know what causes that? Too much testosterone! Bring it on, Curly!

I've tripped in a courtroom as a prosecutor and in a national forum as a trainer. A self-deprecating,

You should have seen me before I took ballet lessons.

gets people to laugh, relax, see you as human, and establish a safe environment where mistakes are learning opportunities.

Find a way to make fun of yourself. This kind of playful self-deprecation:

  • Reduces the threat level - a key for learning
  • Makes you human and accessible
  • Invites your learners to make mistakes and learn from them.

Can't think of anything to poke fun at? Ask your spouse, kids, or a good friend. Tell them they'll be helping you advance your career.

Be in the fun moment.

Life, and training, hands you moments. Be ready to have fun with them.

In my leadership training, I sometimes discuss the Ghurkas - soldiers from the mountains of Nepal who became renowned as the bravest of the brave.

I begin by asking if anyone has heard of the Ghurkas. There's usually a history buff who shares what he knows. At a recent training an energetic woman waved her hand enthusiastically. I happily called on her and she proudly offered,

Sure! They're a kind of pickle.

I lost it - the kind of laughter that hurts. When I'd wiped my eyes and blown my nose, I tried to play it straight and replied,

Not exactly, Ma'am. I think you're thinking of gherkins. Ghurkas are legendary soldiers from the mountains of Nepal. But you're very close.

There was a moment of breath-holding silence in the group. Then this delightful woman slapped both thighs, tilted her head back - and busted out laughing. The rest of us joined in.

Later a participant told me that because I'd first made fun of myself, it gave everyone else permission to make mistakes, laugh at them, and go on to learn new things.

No one in that audience will ever forget what Ghurkas, or gherkins, are.

Another moment occurred when I was doing a train-the-trainer presentation for a state NAFTO chapter. I asked the group to tell me IN ONE SINGLE WORD what the most important quality for being a great trainer is.

That session's Vanna wrote the words up as I went around the room. From the back corner a woman replied,

Good listener.

I started laughing. I didn't even get to explain before the rest of the audience good naturedly pointed out that the woman hadn't listened very well since my instruction was one word. She quickly responded,

I knew that. I was just checking to make sure YOU were listening.

I bowed to her and added to Vanna's list, Humor. The woman grinned as if she'd just won a prize. The rest of the room smiled. We'd just become part of the same fun team.

Fun can have a mind of its own.

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