Humor is an ancient force for collective well-being – and in modern times often under-appreciated in its transformative power. Humor helps humans worldwide let go of stress in the moment, reframe the past and reconnect with each other and ourselves. Yet, humor can get stuck on the entertainment shelf, considered inappropriate or even unnecessary for serious times when we need it the most. If laughter is the best medicine, how do we put humor back in the medicine cabinet? Since people can use humor to help or hurt each other, how can we reliably use humor for good? How do we distinguish positive versus negative humor? This conversation is an invitation to explore humor as a tool for deepening connection.
Background Information:This guide was created in partnership with Barbara Ann Michaels, Jester of the Peace, House of Holy Humor. You can read about her work connecting humor to healing by clicking here.
Let's Get Started!
Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate.
Why We're Here (~10 min)
Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.
How We'll Engage (~5 min)
These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)
- Be curious and listen to understand.
- Show respect and suspend judgment.
- Note any common ground as well as any differences.
- Be authentic and welcome that from others.
- Be purposeful and to the point.
- Own and guide the conversation.
What We’ll Talk About
Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)
Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:
- What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
- What would your best friend say about who you are?
- What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
Humor (~40 min)
Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..
- What role did humor play in your family growing up? Did it create or release stress? Do you use humor now the way your family did then?
- When have you laughed with someone and when have you laughed at someone – or when has someone else laughed with or at you? What have you seen result from sharing humor with people vs directing humor at them?
- When has well-intentioned humor gone wrong, and how did you repair the situation?
- When have you seen humor diffuse tension and make an important, positive difference?
- What has happened to you that was hard at the time, yet you find it genuinely funny today, from any point in your life? How did finally laughing about an aspect of this situation change you? To whom have you told your now-funny tale?
- Where would you like to laugh more in your life?
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)
Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:
- What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
- What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
- How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
- Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?