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Aug30

Is There a Place for Humour in Training?

Posted by olive

"A person without a sense of humour is like a wagon without springs, jolted by every pebble in the road." - Henry Ward Beecher

Humour in the workplace

Why I use humour in training

During my career, I have been fortunate enough to have worked for organisations who have invested in my development and sent me on many training courses. I always left home with a feeling of excitement, looking forward to meeting new people and learning something new, but often the way the training was delivered lacked humour, did not engage and I was often left wondering how soon it would be over.

The idea came to me that I could deliver factual, well researched, up to date content, but in a fun and engaging way. Hence the reason I opened my own training consultancy.

The benefits of using humour in learning

Research into neuroscience reveals that humour systematically activates the brain’s dopamine reward system.  Cognitive studies show that dopamine is important for both goal orientated motivation and long term memory. Also, research into Accelerated Learning Theory indicates that people retain information in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Humour is beneficial in the following ways:

  1. It can break the ice and enhance the enjoyment of the learner
  2. It can build a sense of community amongst delegates
  3. It can establish rapport quickly
  4. It aids knowledge retention
  5. It helps keep enthusiasm at peak levels

Dr Richard Bandler in his interview for NLP LIFE, reveals why humour is important in learning and coaching, he says, “Humour is a tool that, as far as I’m concerned, shields you from the stupidity that’s rampant on the planet”.  He goes on to say that he tries to get people to look from a different point of view, which is what humour is really about.

Possible pitfalls

Humour must be appropriate – we want to make people laugh but not to offend them. Avoid jokes around religion, race, gender or weight.  Also cruel or inappropriate comments, sarcasm and too many jokes. There must be a balance between humour and instruction so that respect for the trainer/facilitator is maintained.

Humour and culture

Nik Peachey, a trainer for the British Council wrote an article called ‘Sense of Humour’, he talks about how by understanding a person’s humour it helps to understand their culture and language. One of his ideas which resonated with me was to get students to try to translate a joke from one language to another and observe cultural nuances as often jokes can mask some negative underlying prejudices.

My experience of laughter and learning

It has been nearly 20 years since I delivered my first training programme based on my ethos of making learning engaging with humourous content. This has had a big impact on our success. Content is tailored to the needs of the learner, we encourage high participation amongst our delegates and all of this is underpinned by current research and theories.

We do live in a politically correct age, and sometimes unintentionally a word or a phrase may cause offence. If you have strong reservations then don’t do it. As a trainer/facilitator we ask for and receive feedback from our delegates, but also, we can read body language and facial expressions which tell us if we have got it wrong. Having delivered training to audiences in over 20 countries, I have built many contacts and networks who use my services because I am authentic and provide a safe environment where learning is energising, memorable and fun.

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