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Don't Laugh at Me; Laugh With Me

Gentle, genuine humor is the recipe for a happy home.

Key points

  • Avoid put-down humor and self-deprecating humor.
  • A home culture of inclusive fun creates a loving foundation for when challenges arise.
  • Humor can build rapport, create inside jokes, and deepen our connections with our housemates.

This post is part of a series on using dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills to create a harmonious household. One of our DBT house rules provides guidelines for gentle communication and humor. Humor can be incredibly bonding, so let’s explore how to enjoy laughing together.

DBT House Rule #4: Respond Gently and Use an Easy Manner.

This rule emphasizes the importance of maintaining a calm and respectful demeanor in all interactions—no threats or insults. It’s about being considerate of others’ feelings and ensuring that your communication style and humor are kind and considerate.

In this series, we have addressed many ways to turn conflict into connection. In this post, we will focus on building a sense of inclusive fun that creates a loving foundation for when challenges arise. Research overwhelmingly supports the use of humor for bonding.

Let’s explore how humor can build rapport, create inside jokes, and deepen our connections with our housemates. Here are some tips:

Source: Anna Shvets / Pexels
Source: Anna Shvets / Pexels
  1. Pay attention to each other’s sense of humor: Notice what makes your housemates laugh and what kind of humor they enjoy. The emphasis here is to ensure they enjoy the humor. For instance, a sarcastic comment about a shared household chore might be funny to some but not others. Tailor your jokes and comments accordingly.
  2. Be spontaneous: Don’t force humor; let it flow naturally in your interactions. Sometimes, the best inside jokes come from unexpected moments or spontaneous remarks.
  3. Share funny experiences: Create shared memories by doing inherently funny or memorable activities. These shared experiences can create inside jokes that you reminisce about later.
  4. Reference past experiences: Callback humor references past events or inside jokes in new contexts. It shows that you remember and appreciate those moments, and it can lead to laughter as you relive them together.
  5. Use humor to diffuse tension: In moments of conflict or stress, humor can be a powerful tool to lighten the mood and ease tension. However, be sensitive to the situation and avoid using humor to dismiss serious concerns.
  6. Be willing to laugh at yourself: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laughing at your own quirks and mishaps can make you more relatable and endearing to your housemates. (Don’t resort to self-deprecating humor. Be dialectical on balancing these.)

Always remember, everyone has unique sensitivities when it comes to humor. Respecting your housemates’ boundaries is crucial. Use your Wise Mind when making jokes to avoid hurting others. Remember, the goal of household humor is to foster a more inclusive and harmonious environment.

Ground Rules for Household Humor

It’s only funny if everyone thinks it’s funny. Too many people disrupt the household by making hurtful jokes that target one person in the family. That’s not helpful. As we explore how humor can help create household harmony, we start by saying no to put-down and self-deprecating humor.

Source: RDNE Stock project / Pexels
Source: RDNE Stock project / Pexels

Put-down humor often involves mocking or belittling others for a laugh. Types of humor that destroy relationships include:

  • Body-shaming jokes
  • Mocking intelligence
  • Racial or ethnic slurs
  • Gender-based insults
  • Picking at someone’s personal insecurities

If you have ever been the target of this kind of humor, you know how deeply wounding it can be. If you tend to target other people, talk to a therapist about your need to tear people down and how you can use humor to uplift yourself and others instead. Perhaps you aren’t even aware of the impact of your words, or it’s a by-product of being bullied in your family of origin. Either way, you will need support and care to change these habits.

If we are used to being bullied, we may use self-deprecating humor as a defense: “If I say it first, it wouldn’t hurt as badly.” But this kind of humor erodes our self-respect, perpetuates our negative self-image, invites others to pick on us, and reinforces negative self-talk. Let’s ban self-deprecating humor from our homes. If you catch yourself or someone else making themselves the butt of the joke, invite them to be kind to themselves.

Ideas for Enhancing a Sense of Fun and Ease in the House

  • Create a shared humor board or wall: Post funny memes, cartoons, or quotes in a common area like the kitchen or living room. Encourage everyone to contribute, and it can become a focal point for shared laughter.
  • Organize game nights: Host game nights where you play board games, card games, or party games that encourage laughter and friendly competition. Games like charades or Pictionary can lead to hilarious moments and inside jokes.
  • Start a joke of the day: Designate a rotating schedule for each housemate to share a joke, meme, or funny story with the rest of the household. It’s a simple way to inject humor into daily life and keep everyone laughing.
  • Create themed nights: Plan themed movie or TV show marathons around a specific genre or theme, such as comedy classics, slapstick humor, or parody films. Make it a regular event where everyone can relax and enjoy laughs together.
  • Leave surprise notes or pranks: Leave funny notes or minor pranks around the house for each other to discover. These can be harmless and in good spirits, such as a fake spider on the bathroom mirror or a balloon avalanche over the door, so everyone can laugh about them together.
Source: Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels
Source: Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels
  • Share funny stories: Encourage open communication by sharing amusing anecdotes or embarrassing moments from your past. This can help everyone get to know each other better and lead to shared laughter.
  • Participate in group activities: Plan outings or group activities that are inherently funny, such as karaoke nights, improv workshops, or visiting a comedy club together. These shared experiences can lead to inside jokes and fond memories.
  • Celebrate milestones with humor: Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, or housewarming party, incorporate humor into your celebrations with funny decorations, gag gifts, or themed costumes.

Incorporating humor into your daily interactions and shared experiences can create a positive and enjoyable living environment with your housemates. Remember, the key here is to be gentle and use an easy manner. No threats or insults. No put-downs. Gentle humor can be hilarious and inclusive. Create a home culture where everyone is in on the joke, and everyone is elevated with kind humor. This is a significant investment in creating a harmonious home. Living in an environment where everyone feels safe and has a sense of ease in our interactions is wonderful.

If you ever find yourself crossing the line with your humor and someone asks you to stop or tells you they’re hurt, don’t beat yourself up. Take a step back, apologize, change course, and make amends. It’s not about policing your humor; it’s about being thoughtful and courteous to the people you care about and fostering healthy fun. Remember, we’re all learning and growing together.

The Complete DBT House Rules:

  1. Assume good intentions.
  2. Get curious about each other’s emotions and perspectives.
  3. Try to understand and validate each other’s experiences.
  4. Respond gently and use an easy manner.
  5. Respect each other’s capabilities, needs, and limitations.
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