Friday 4 November 2022

Humour and tears

I have blogged about humour a few times, but keep coming back to it. This time it is the result of a few conversations with a coach who I am supervising.

At the end of a session a while back, she said something about humour, and having been discouraged to use it professionally; and was interested in my take.  

I explained why I thought it could be beneficial, and mentioned C W Metcalf; and after the session I sent her the link to this video:

The next time we met, she said what an impact that had had on her coaching work; and how there was now much more laughter, but also, interestingly, many more tears.

Her view of this was that once people have laughed, they find it safer to go to the darker and more dangerous places, as they know that there is a way back - via laughter. It is as though they have let themselves down into the pit via the safety rope of humour and know that they can climb back up that rope at any time.

I found that intriguing; not least as my initial thoughts were different. I thought that by laughing together in a session, she and her client were expanding the emotional bandwidth, as it were, of the session. It clearly marked this out as a space that was different from many work contexts; and that gave permission for other emotions to be expressed, including grief and distress.

Chatting about the link between laughter and tears with Jane, my ever-perceptive wife, she had another perspective. She suggested that laughing together promotes an intimacy, and thus trust, that makes it easier to go to the difficult places.

I suspect we are all right, and that all these aspects are relevant. And I am quite sure, based both in theory and experience, that enabling the expression of grief and distress in a coaching session can be very helpful.  People often think better after they have cried: tears serve a purpose, and whilst it might not be appropriate to cry in the Board Room, having a place where that is safe, private, accepted and understood, is hugely valuable.


With thanks to Denis Agati and Tom Pumford for sharing their photos on Unsplash

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