The Correlation between Humor and Success



How correlated are humor and success? It’s hard to imagine that anyone believes that exhibiting humorous and genial qualities act disadvantageously. In fact, in the business field, being humorous works to one’s advantage. It’s more enjoyable to talk to someone who can slip in a few jokes and be funny than someone who is always uptight and formal. Being respectful and serious can be important too, but it can sometimes come off as boring. Where conversing and networking is important, being funny can make the conversation lighter and more enjoyable, thus opening opportunities that may have never been created otherwise. Formal studies show that being funny can make others perceive you as more enjoyable and thus approachable. Michelle Gielan, expert in positive psychology and cofounder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research, explains that more dopamine is released when something makes us smile to reinforce creativity, productivity, and engagement. In an analysis of 225 academic studies, happy employees were found to have 31% higher productivity and 37% higher sale. Successful humor also improves personal and group productivity, and facilitates trust.

But this is all under the assumption that humor is successful. It’s crucial to say the right jokes at the right time and make sure no one is offended. Even if it does not necessarily offend anyone, a wrong joke can draw negative perceptions. It’s also important to consider what line of work you are in, for being funny may not be appropriate at all. For instance, humor is perhaps even desired in the advertising, media, or entertainment industry. But in fields related to medicine, finance, or engineering, squeezing in attempts to lighten the mood can be difficult. It’s all about saying the right things at the right moments. 

Chris Kim