Laugh It Off

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 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.


Filed under The Search

12 responses to “Laugh It Off

  1. Thanks for linking to my post! It was interesting to see that the bulk of my commentors laugh more than 17 times/day! I did pay more attention to it yesterday so it was a good reminder to lighten up and laugh a little!

    I feel the same way about my group of college friends – when we are together, there is so much laughter! One of my favorite memories was when we all went out to a wine bar to celebrate my 27th birthday. We were telling stories, so there was a lot of laughter. There were 2 older women sitting next to us, and after about 20 minutes of sitting there, one of them came to our table and said something like, “I’m sure you girls are having a great time, but can you keep it down a little? I can’t hear what my friend is saying since you are laughing so loudly.” It was a odd feeling to be scolded for laughing to loudly at our age! But we were all kind of proud of the fact that we were having that much fun. We did try to keep it down after that, but the whole situation was just sort of hilarious. I mean, it wasn’t as if we were in some formal place – it was a very laid back wine bar…

    So yes, I do think the measure of a good friendship/relationship is how often you laugh together!

  2. Megan

    I’m “that person” who is always making jokes so I hope they’re not just annoying! (I’ve been told I’m Lucille-Ball caliber funny, which is why I continue!)
    Also, to somewhat quote (or misquote, as it were) a Legally Blonde line: “Laughing releases endorphins. Endorphins make people happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands. What? They just don’t!” :-).

  3. AmyK

    Geez, I sure hope people think the Chandler-esque joke-crackers trying desperately to lighten moods and fill awkward spaces and liven up boring gatherings are funny and not annoying…because I’m one of them! Love to laugh, love even more to make people laugh, and lovelovelove being around people who feel the same way.

  4. katieleigh

    Yes. I laugh a LOT whenever I’m with my closest friends, particularly one group who are always cracking each other up. And I LOVE the Legally Blonde line Megan quoted – my college roommate and I have had many laughs over that one.

    Sometimes I’m Chandler, too; sometimes I’m too shy to be, but I definitely think laughter is key to a healthy friendship.

  5. I think your questioning actually nails this one perfectly. It’s not whether we like to laugh (we all do in our own way), but the kind of humor we find funny that determines whether we click with others.

    I remember a co-worker of a friend of mine used to drop completely inappropriately lewd, racist, homophobic and chauvinist jokes. Not only did I never laugh at this guy, but I got into a pretty heated altercation with him telling him where he could stuff his sense of humor. That said, maybe that guy actually has friends who find him hilarious. And maybe that’s why they’ve bonded.

    Personally, I have a dry sense of humor – I like to point out and laugh at life’s nuances (the co-worker who wears different shoes to work). I’ll be the first to laugh at myself and the first to point out something funny about others. We all have our quirks. That said, I know that sense of humor doesn’t work for everyone. Some people are more sensitive and don’t take well to me joking around. Others are more uptight and find more traditional jokes (knock knock) to be their humor style. To me, the key is finding your groove with someone else who has similar moves.

  6. I spent my last two weekends with two different sets of old, beloved friends and, yup, we spent so much time laughing that my stomach muscles literally hurt. I think laughter might be a shorthand for shared values and shared interests: knowing the same cultural references, valuing a sense of humor, prioritizing humor in general.

    Thanks for this post. It read to me like a great cheat-sheet for auditioning new friends. 🙂

  7. Eva

    Absolutely. This is a great discovery about friendship. If you hardly laugh at all on the first date – no matter how much you think you have in common – you probably aren’t a good fit. So obvious, but so true.

  8. I’m not the person cracking jokes, but all of my close friends can make me laugh. I definitely think that laughter is one of those things that brings you together–if you think the same things are funny it’s a good indication of whether you mesh.
    And when I think back on my workplaces, the ones where I was happiest were the ones where we all laughed together often.

  9. Ana

    I think you may just have hit on the secret of friendship! When I think back to my BFFs past or present, I remember lots of lots of stomach-hurting, weird-look-from-others-inducing, drink-spurting-out-the-mouth-and-nose giggles and laughs! That’s what a BFF was—someone who you had all these inside jokes with, that others didn’t get!
    But, I will say that the first date, either in romance or friendship, may be too nerve-racking for true hilarity; so I wouldn’t write off a potential BFF because I wasn’t “ROTFL” (as the kids say). Having a similar sense of humor, though, is essential…like Nilsa described above…if someone doesn’t enjoy sarcasm and dry humor, it is unlikely we are going to have too much in common!

  10. I laugh all the time and have even gotten asked to pipe down in some of the local restaurants in my town. Can you believe that? They want someone not to have a good time? WTF?

  11. tommy

    ” The research in question was that “a small child typically laughs more than four hundred times each day, and an adult—seventeen times.”” – well, yes, but… they’re with compatriates eating boogers and talking about poop and making mud pies – and not always with mud, and farting on each other. I’ve found that doesn’t fly well in Corporate America. When did everyone else get so stuffy?? Keep laughing and blow raspberries on the glass of the booth next to you every now and again – for the kids!! Oh, and pull french fries out of your nose, that works ,too.

  12. Pingback: When Work Friends Par | MWF Seeking BFF

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