Humor: Litmus for Likeability

Humor indicates a lot about us, our choices, and our relationships, and by using humor we can pretty accurately gauge how favorably someone thinks of us. Obviously, you need not be a comedian to be well liked, but it should hold true that if someone is quick to laugh at your jokes, they’d also hold you in high regard overall. This premise helps us to assess our likeability, and, in turn, provides insight into why we gravitate towards those who laugh with us.

Think about a time you were telling a funny story. You were probably looking for a specific reaction (i.e. laughter). At the end of the story, if you didn’t get the desired reaction, you likely felt insulted, and if you did get the desired reaction, you probably felt flattered and proud that you were able to make others laugh. Let’s say your audience laughed; in this case, they liked you enough to appreciate your humor, and because they made you feel good about yourself, you’d probably report liking them a good deal as well. Their laughter was validating, therefore (due to our strong societal need for acceptance) we’re likely to keep regular company with those folks.

This theory can be applied to various social situations, including the workplace. For instance, have you ever noticed someone laughing at an authority figure’s jokes that maybe aren’t all that funny? This is a strategy sometimes used to suck up, and it can be employed with success, especially when the boss is particularly caught up in his or herself. This is not to say that we endorse laughing at your supervisor’s jokes just to get ahead. Of course, most folks are aware enough to recognize the difference between genuine amusement and fake, patronizing laughter fueled by ulterior motives. However, opening yourself up to appreciate your boss’ unique brand of humor may have positive consequences.

Essentially, everyone likes to laugh – it makes us feel good. The entertainment industry makes a lot of money (through ticket sales to funny movies and live performances, etc.) based on that simple premise. When it’s all boiled down, we like the people whose jokes we laugh at, and we like those who laugh at our own jokes.

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2 Responses to Humor: Litmus for Likeability

  1. I tell funny stories to merely entertain my listeners but not for their laugh reactions. Just to socialize and relate with my audience-(my stern bosses) whoever listens. Set a light mood for the day. So I can only half agree with this article. I just love to spread my gift of laughter on my native side! My grandmother once told me that’s how our Native People dealt with the trauma and pain of assimilation/near genocide. We still find humor to be a great remedy.

  2. Heather Shuttleworth says:

    Thank you for your comment, Cecily! Humor really does have so many important purposes, and you mentioned some of the big ones (socializing, atmosphere, and coping). Keep spreading that laughter — I’ll bet because of that gift, you’re more well-liked than you know.

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