Work is a serious business so why would we use laughter to build trust in the workplace?

Daniel Goleman, the father of Emotional Intelligence, highlighted the importance of managing emotions in influencing and leadership. A leader is someone who is able to drive collective emotions in a positive direction.

One way to do this is to use smiles and laughter, and this has direct connection to the neural connections between people:

In a neurological sense, laughing represents the shortest distance between two people because it instantly interlocks limbic systems. This immediate, involuntary reaction, as one researcher puts it, involves the most direct communication possible between people—brain to brain—with our intellect just going along for the ride, in what might be called a “limbic lock”.* No surprise, then, that people who relish each other’s company laugh easily and often; those who distrust or dislike each other, or who are otherwise at odds, laugh little together, if at all.

(Primal Leadership, Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman – Richard Boyatzis – Annie Mckee — *quoting Laughter is “brain to brain” by Robert Provine, Laughter: A Scientific Investigation)


Share something about yourself


Building those trusting bonds also has to do with how much you offer about yourself, as a person. What lies beyond the line manager’s suit? What thinking can be shared beyond the hat you’re wearing, no matter what role you hold?

Once, I was coaching a manager who wanted to improve his relationship with 50 employees. I challenged him to share something personal with them, even if it felt vulnerable. This is something he had never done before, and a while later he decided he would try it. During his annual Christmas speech, he told a story about his newborn child and about how clueless parents are when they first get started. The employees ended up smiling and feeling closer to him. He had chosen to share something personal and deeply human with them, and they respected and honoured that. His relationship with staff started to improve.


Share something about yourself


A positive attitude includes respect


Ever been in a meeting where you could cut the tension with a knife? Deadlines, pressure, difficult decisions to make, external impositions – all of this can spark conflicts, especially when there are a lot of hotheads in the room.

Remember to show appreciation for others and acknowledgment of what they bring to the table – this will open the opportunity for sharing stories and perhaps some good laughs.

Most people appreciate it when you acknowledge what is going on and at the same time take yourself less seriously. Ego doesn’t play well when you need to build the team spirit, so leave it behind and find a real connection with your people.


Some words of caution:


One thing to highlight is that being smiley and friendly needs to be authentic. It has nothing to do with those evil laughs you see in the movies, nor with self-deprecation or deprecation of others.

Also, beware of differences in humour. If you are good with jokes, use something that everyone can enjoy.


Exercise your laughter muscle!


Regular laughter 10-15 minutes a day has great benefits for health, mood, relationships and confidence.

Give it a go!



for part one of this blog click here