Levity, humor, empathy, and relatability in communication.

How these 4 traits can diffuse situations and strengthen relations.

What is business if not human interaction? Just observe people walking to different businesses and vendors. No matter the product or the service, it is all human interaction at the core. At the end of each day, it is relationships that we experience and feel the most.

At Sudsies, Jason often states “We’re in the People Business.” Put another way, the ethos of the motto is all about businesses being “of the people and for the people”. There are many tools you may choose to use, in your endeavors, when you meet new customers, clients, guests, or partners to emphasize this people centric philosophy. The traits you choose to exhibit though… they can often be some of the best tools because they’re ingrained in all of our human nature.

There are 4 traits that are especially effective in not only communication, but also in connecting quickly and deeply. These 4 traits can ultimately diffuse difficult situations and strengthen your relations. The four traits are: humor, levity, empathy, and relatability.

Humor helps to humble… even the Gods.

Ever meet someone that took themselves too seriously or thought too highly of their own state of mind in a given moment? It can be off putting but also almost impossible to break through such a force field. Humor helps. Humor breaks through barriers and gets people to realize the absurdity of a situation or how putting on airs can lead to blind spots in appreciating a moment or a gesture. Perhaps caught in their own repetitive pattern or momentum, they’re just temporarily disconnected from the opportunity to authentically connect. Humor helps to bring everyone and everything back together again because when human beings laugh, they are sharing in a raucous joy.

Humor slides right past most states of mind and it can help someone look at themselves from an outside perspective (from a humorous lens they themselves can laugh at as they share in the belly aching release). Humor breaks through barriers so people can be present, aware, and conscientious. People pay good money to laugh, and I’ve rarely met anyone that isn’t grateful for the “feel good” feelings released, especially when unexpected. It’s a mood changer. Just make sure it’s the right time and place, as not in all settings will humor make do.

At the end of day though, people remember brands, products, services, and various businesses precisely because of the ability these tangible things have to shift their mood (through how they were made to feel). The better the feeling, the better the business. Humor is a powerful trait that can de-escalate, enhance, connect, or influence people and their various states of mind.

Levity lifts the heavy atmosphere so that it’s out of the way.

If humor is the bulldozer that clears the mountain standing in the way, then levity is the open space that lays in its wake. Humor gets us to levity (where stress, complications, rebuttals, and objections fade away) which allows time for consideration, understanding, and an open-minded perspective to lead the way. As Jason states, “we’re a small business in America and I think America is what drives us, but we drive America. Keeping everything effortless is big for us. We want to be approachable, and we want to make things easy. For everyone… because the takeaway is that we’re a part of a community.” Nothing makes things easy or allows for approachability quite like levity does.

So, what happens when humor or levity are not a possibility? Then what does one do? This is we’re empathy and relatability come into play. Empathy is a tool that allows you to interact with someone even if they are in one of the “tougher to handle” states of mind (anger, sadness, or apathy). In fact, even if they are (in that moment) unrelatable to you, you can still put yourself in their shoes. Aim to feel what they feel and be patient and open in allowing them to express their feelings (for as long as they feel the need to).

Empathy embraces expression.

Empathy isn’t about relating to or understanding why someone is feeling how they do, but about just “feeling what they’re feeling and sharing in their emotion” at that give moment. Without objection or rebuttals on your part, the person is allowed to express themselves, vent, and emote (which ultimately leads to them shifting gears). “Getting it out of their system,” is the oft-quoted expression. With empathy, you are creating a non-judgmental bubble and a safe space for that to happen. Bask in the emotion (in all its glory) because all emotions (whether we label them good or bad emotions) are integral to the full scope and are part and parcel of the complete human experience.

Relatability resists ostentatious rhetoric.

However, what if you’re the one that’s in a state of mind that’s tough for others to deal with? What if it’s you that people can’t connect with? Well, you’ve got to be relatable. Always be aware and cognizant of your states of mind, your emotions, surroundings, effect on people, and authenticity level. Are you being the most real that you could be and saying what you mean, meaning what you say? Because, at the end of the day, this is what relatability is all about. It’s our last trait but it’s one of, if not the most important, in connecting. As people we don’t usually escalate with those we can relate to. The key is in understanding each other. The door opens for bonds to be deeper and communication to be clearer when relatability is in play. If you can’t quite understand someone or understand why they are behaving in a certain way, that’s a sign to try harder and put in a little more effort to see what you’re missing.

So next time you’re handling a customer interaction, negotiating a deal, or training a difficult recruit, consider that the answer may not lie in the data, the facts, the problem, or the solution…but rather, it could lie in the implementation of one of four missing traits: humor, levity, empathy, or relatability.

4 Take-aways to diffuse situations and strengthen relations:

  1. Humor permeates even the most difficult of settings. When something is truly and purely funny, even the staunchest of grim faces can’t help or hide a smile. Now humor can have a whole room belly laughing till their eyes’ tear and their abs blare, but it can also reveal a slight smirk on the toughest of cookies. Use it wisely and when the setting is appropriate. Most of the time, the setting can vary by culture, even if the effects of humor are universal. Don’t be afraid to fail with it either, as that is the nature of humor; it’s risky.
  2. Levity isn’t missed or noticed as “absent” until it is needed the most. Ever see a pressure valve about to blow? Even the most serious of us may be tempted to think that there’s no space for levity in business, but as in human relationships, sports, or aero-space and locomotive/industrial dynamics, there usually comes a moment when a release is not only welcomed but required. This is what levity is. It is a slight opening (or a pressure release) for a moment to settle back into its natural state of things. Set a balance by injecting a bit of levity.
  3. Empathy gets a lot of headlines but how often is it “done right?” As with anything that is mentioned often, with empathy, it’s not about the theory but about the execution. Many would be quick to state that they know what empathy is and you can probably find various definitions that all essentially say as much but the key to executing empathy properly is that it has nothing to do with “what you should do” with regards to another person and everything to do with “doing nothing as you put the focus on them, instead of you.” This doesn’t mean you do nothing by sitting their apathetic. What it means is that you do nothing as you focus on wholeheartedly listening to and feeling what the other person is needing to express and emotionally release. Provide the safe space and you’ll be surprised how impactful and helpful this can be for people, in or outside of business settings.
  4. Relatability is when “it” clicks into place. You’ll never know what “it” will be that causes you to relate to someone. Relatability is tricky. Do you relate to a shared job title, an emotion, a physiological trait, nature or nurture, a setting, or a culture? The things we can relate to are infinite, which is why when someone is saying that they “don’t understand” someone else, it’s not because they can’t but rather because they’re closed off to asking the right questions. If you can’t immediately or initially relate, then seek to understand, and if you are having a hard time at understanding, then try hard to ask the right questions. Eventually, you’ll get to where “it” clicks, and the “why” of one’s behavior will come to you.
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