Laughter and humor are critical parts of being happy. We all should make the effort to achieve them the right way. But never try for a laugh at another’s expense. Try to laugh with others and never at them.
Self-depreciating humor relays a message of humility and encourages trust. It is a valuable asset for any leader. The leader is not a stuffed shirt. The leader has a humble spirit and can laugh at his or herself.
Motivational speaker Bob Burg expanded on this subject – “Are you about to make a joke at someone else’s expense? Here’s my suggestion. First, think about it for a moment……Now don’t do it”.
There is no upside (other than perhaps a fleeting moment of false superiority).
There is a huge downside, including – but not limited to – hurting another human being’s feelings, making yourself look bad, destroying trust with the target of the joke, losing trust (thus influence) with those who are witness to, or hear about, the insult, and being disliked without a principle based reason for it.
If you must make a joke at someone’s expense, make sure it is at your expense. And remember, if you say something to someone that you meant to be harmlessly funny and then find yourself having to say, ‘I was only kidding’, then it wasn’t probably funny in the first place.
So laugh with others, never at them.