By Kate Jacobson | August 15, 2019
Communication isn’t always easy—especially in high stress or tough situations. But breaking through and getting information across doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth, in fact, it can be more like telling a joke.
That’s Jan McInnis’ philosophy. The comedian and motivational speaker will be a keynote speaker at AACVPR’s 2019 Annual Meeting, taking place September 18-21 in Portland, Ore. Her keynote “Finding the Funny in Change” encourages better communication through a sense of humor.
“You have to find a way to communicate—whether it’s with coworkers or clients or patients, and you have to find a way to do that even when it’s tough,” she said. “Humor can take the edge off that.”
McInnis knows this firsthand. She worked in marketing for 15 years before she even stepped foot on stage. But when she was working a 9-to-5, she found communicating with her colleagues was easiest when she employed a little bit of humor—especially during a tense situation.
That doesn’t mean someone needs to walk into their office cracking jokes like a seasoned stand-up. She said using appropriate humor here and there to get a point across—or to diffuse a situation—can make the whole team a little more at ease.
“You can find humor in any situation,” McInnis said. “You just have to find it.”
Those in the medical field can learn from this, especially those working in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. Someone who is going through a pulmonary or cardiac event is probably already feeling a mix of emotions—not all of them good. McInnis said nurses and doctors injecting a little humor in their day-to-day interactions can make their patients feel more at ease, and in turn, more optimistic about their care.
“You can’t cry and laugh at the same time. You don’t want to see your practitioner worried, looking at you like ‘Oh my god, what are we going to do?!’” she laughed. “You need people laughing. It’s a better, more positive way to approach a situation. A lot of medical professionals have great senses of humor already. They understand the need to laugh—they see the hard side of life, so they like to laugh when they can, too.”
But how does someone just start being funny? McInnis said people tell her all the time they’re not funny—and she never believes them. Instead, she encourages them to work on their observation skills and then they’ll start seeing the humor around them.
“Humor is like a muscle, you just have to work at it,” she said. “You can’t decide one day, ‘I’m going to be funny.’”
She said funny things happen every day around all of us. They usually circulate around training your brain to see the incongruities in the world. Like a paper memo about saving paper, or a meeting about planning a meeting. Being more aware of your surroundings give you a chance to take stock of the world around you and see the inconsistencies. It also makes you more present with your surroundings, which can help your communication skills whether you’re funny or not.
“A lot of comedians, their jokes are about things that just don’t make sense,” McInnis said. “Comedians can point out funny things in an environment and people are going to say, ‘Woah, why are we doing it that way?’ Sometimes you’re so in the trenches and you can’t see it.”
For those looking to use humor as a tool in their personal and professional life, she recommends starting small. Maybe take a different route to work and look at things you might’ve not seen before. Question ironies and take stock of things you might be doing on auto-pilot.
The best part about this approach of communication? The laughter, of course.
“Most people are open to humor,” McInnis laughed. “There’s very few people that hate laughing.”
McInnis is a keynote speaker at AACVPR’s 2019 Annual Meeting. For more information, and to register, please visit our website.