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Laughing Through Conflict – Benefits of Infusing Humor into Your Relationship


When I was an undergrad at Stevenson University in Stevenson, Maryland, I had a project that required me to look at my family traits and behaviors and answer several questions. I thought it would be fun to ask my parents these questions too just to see how they would respond.

One question I asked was: “Who is the funniest person in our family?”

Both my parents almost in unison responded:  ” I am the funniest.”

Both were perplexed by the other’s claim to be “the funny one.” They immediately started making their cases as to why they felt they deserve the title over the other. Back then I always looked for the middle ground between my parents, so I decided to list both of them as being the funniest in my family. However, my parents were not satisfied with sharing the title and to this day, they compete over who is ” the funny one.” The truth is, both of my parents have a good sense of humor, the situation, and mood usually dictates who is funnier at that moment.

My parents for most of their marriage have fought loudly and passionately. Neither will shy away from conflict when they feel they have been wronged – and neither ever feels they are wrong. Battles went through cycles in my house, there was yelling, then there was silence, then there was laughter. The one thing I always loved, always counted on, no matter how bad their fights were, at some point there would be laughter. My mom especially has this beautiful giggle that my dad has a particular gift for getting out of her. I always admired the way my parents could defuse the tension in our house and move forward from conflict just by making each other laugh.

Humor and laughter can be a valuable tool for defusing tensions brought on by conflict. I learned from my parents that even in the worst of times, finding a way to laugh can allow you to gain perspective.

Infusing humor and laughter into a relationship can be beneficial, but it can also cause more issues if not done well.

Laughter and humor can break down walls and make you or the other person less defensive. If we are in a conflict, and we feel backed into a corner or that someone is blaming us, we become defensive which clogs our ability to see reason and move forward. Inserting humor into the situation can break up the tension and gives each party a chance to gain some perspective.

Laughter and humor can help you bond with the person with whom you are in conflict. A joke that makes you both laugh builds an intimacy between you and these moments assist in making a relationship stronger.

However, make sure you are laughing with them, not at them. Laughter and humor are great ways to ease tension; however, all parties involved should be in on the joke. If you are making a joke about the other person, it shouldn’t be mean-spirited. If they are not laughing, you have gone too far. The line between funny and hurtful can be thin so be sure to gauge the mood of the other person.

I encourage everyone to find humor in everyday moments and laugh as often as possible in their relationships. By doing this, you create stronger bonds and relationships which can make difficult times more bearable. My parents laugh all the time now; it is adorable to observe. This week they will celebrate 27 years of marriage and humor I believe is a big part of their secret.

Have a great week,

Abigail R. C. McManus M. S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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