Yesterday, as I was doing my daily blog reading, I came across a post that gave me pause. Lisa wrote about a piece of research from The Happiness Project, a book that I’ve found plenty of occasion to quote myself. The research in question was that “a small child typically laughs more than four hundred times each day, and an adult—seventeen times.”
Later in that same chapter, author Gretchen Rubin expands on the power of laughter in facilitating connection. “It’s a source of social bonding, and it helps to reduce conflicts and cushion social stress within relationships—at work, in marriage, among strangers. When people laugh together, they tend to talk and touch more and to make eye contact more frequently.”
In her blog, Lisa questioned if she reaches the 17 mark most days, which immediately made me think of my own laugh patterns. The first thing that came to mind was my daily lunches with my coworkers. I swear I fill my 17-laugh quota—and not just friendly half-chuckles, I’m talking serious belly laughs—in any given lunch hour alone. What’s most telling, perhaps, is not really how much I laugh when I’m with my work BFFs, but the fact that I cannot for the life of me remember a single reason why we laugh so hard. Take Monday’s lunch. I can see us around the table—I could even tell you exactly who sat where—and I can picture each friend mid-cackle, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what spurred any of it. Probably because about 90% of the time we’re laughing, it’s at nothing really. Someone’s snide remark, another person’s recalling of a random Saturday morning TV theme song (“Don’t wake me up. Don’t wake me up if I’m dreaming…”) There are a few go-to memories that come up whenever someone decides to recount funny moments—the day one wore two different shoes to work, the lunch another mistook sour cream for honey butter—but mostly we’re just laughing because, well, I think we genuinely find each other amusing.
If there’s one universal trait among all my closest friends, it’s not that we each love Harry Potter or Friday Night Lights or even necessarily share the same core values. It’s not that we all sat next to each other in school or lived in the same dorm or share a cubicle space. It’s that no matter what, whenever we see each other we spend most of the time laughing. (I love this fact, though I’m pretty sure the rest of the general public hates it, if the looks my college friends and I get whenever we dare eat out is any indication. Picture eight 20-something girls yelling and laughing at full volume. I know. Totally obnoxious. I’d definitely hide in shame if I wasn’t so worried about missing Jenna and Rachel’s next hilarious spat or Julia’s goofy one-woman shows.)
There’s something about people you can laugh with that makes you come back for more. Which is perhaps why I default to awkward jokes whenever I’m in an uncomfortable situation. Seriously. I’m basically Chandler, minus the gay burlesque father. Like when I went to a dinner gathering of five women set up through GirlfriendCircles.com. I was the one filling every awkward silence with jokes about pizza or something else similarly not-at-all funny.
Now that I’ve pinpointed the secret of my closest friendships—they make me laugh and in turn laugh with/at me—perhaps I’ll do some score-keeping. Maybe the trick to finding my perfect BFF (and not wasting time on the lost causes) is keeping track of how much I laugh on the first girl-date. That kind of clicking happens early, right?
What do you think? Have you found that laughter is the universal language? Or are those people who are always trying to make a joke just kind of annoying? How many times would I need to laugh in one friend-date to warrant a second? And is this a decent methodology? I’m thinking maybe yes.