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There’s a time to be funny

A-a-a-nd there’s a time to be serious. My natural inclination is to be serious, but I also tend to counter that by being, let’s say, humorous.  Thus, while we’re quoting Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as Polonius said to Laertes:

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 3

I try to be myself all the time, so as an intense guy, I usually have my game face on. I take things very seriously, but having fun is my way of not being too serious all the time. And my humor is very, very, very dry.

Did I mention that I have a dry sense of humor? Sometimes people can’t tell whether I’m joking or serious. It could be a problem unless something makes me laugh. Then I’m like the sound of a sonic boom in the room, exploding with barely controllable laughter.

How to determine the right time to be funny at work

This is generally a fine line to tread, but I think it’s safe to say from my experience, plopping a dry sense of humor down in the middle of strangers would probably not be a good thing. (I never say, “trust me”, but trust me on this.) And slapstick humor is probably a definite no-no. (Do you like the way I used “probably” and “definitely” to describe the same thing? Hedging my bets there.) 

While slapstick humor doesn’t play well on the phone because your audience can’t see you or what you’re doing, the same is true for dry humor. I’ve learned there’s a real danger here that without seeing that you are joking by seeing your expression or attitude, your comment is misconstrued. For example, let’s say you’re in conversation with Jenny.

Jenny: Did you hear that Bob got a promotion?
You: (sarcastically) Well, la, de da!

Jenny doesn’t know that you and Bob are friends and that you’re winking and nodding because all three of you are on a conference call. This is how you and Bob interact all the time, but to her, you’re just a jealous smarty-poopy. A light touch goes best when your voice is all you have to convey your message.

Did I mention that I learned when not to be funny, the hard way?

Yeah, take it from ole Uncle Buck here, being class clown ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. If experience is the best teacher, I’m a slow, but solid learner.

Except for today.

I had just finished writing an article I had been struggling with and was somewhat giddy with delight at solving a large problem. I only answered the phone because the number was from a recruiter I knew.

It turns out that it was a different recruiter I didn’t know from the same office. And do you recall that I previously said I try to be myself all the time? I treat most people as a friend instantly because that’s who I am.

Well, here I go, being giddy and cracking jokes to a stranger to the point that he asks me, “Are you okay?”

Oops. We are obviously not on the same page, so I quickly spun around and put myself in his reality.

Yessir, Little Buckaroos, there’s a time and a place for everything,