Laughter is the forgotten hero of connection.

They say that if you laugh the world laughs with you.

That’s because laughing is contagious, in the same way, that yawning is. In fact, 58 years ago in 1962, part of the world was dealing with an epidemic of a different scale. Three girls studying at a boarding school in an African village in Tanzania (Tanganyika at the time) broke out in a case of the giggle, those giggles burst into laughs. Then the laughter began to spread. It spread so much so that 95 of the 159 students at the school were affected.

As a result of this laughter outbreak, the school had to be closed and upon reopening the laughter returned, and again more than 50 pupils were affected. But the laughter didn’t stop there, it began to spread to the nearby villages. By the time the laughter stopped, more than 1,000 people had has been affected by the laughter epidemic. It was over two and a half years later.

The Tanzania laughter epidemic of 1962 resulted in huge disruption of the entire country.

How can something so innocuous as laughter become such a contagious epidemic? Genuine laughter is an involuntary action and it is triggered without us even knowing. It’s why we find joy in others laughs because we understand that when genuine, is unable to be controlled or contrived. When we are exposed to other people’s laugh, our brains respond by preparing our facial muscles to smile. That smile then turns to a laugh. It’s why we find it so hard to restrain ourselves when someone gets a case of the giggles despite not being let in on the joke. It’s also why sitcoms use a laugh track, it promotes the viewer to join in. Do you really think all those Friends scenes promote hysterical outbreaks? Friends fan or not, it’s unlikely.

Laughter and its impact on relationships is something that has been studied for years. In fact, some scientists believe that laughter was the earliest form of human language and it wasn’t for over a million years after we discovered laughter that humans had the lung strength to move from laughter to more defined language or words. With language at the heart of connection, the contagious nature of laughter could well be a way to sate a fundamental human need of ours. Connection.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina created a study in which they placed groups of strangers in a room and made them watch funny and not so funny content and measured how it impacted their relationship with each other.

The researchers tested the hypothesis that shared laughter would promote relationship wellbeing via increased positive emotions, decreased negative emotions, and increased perceptions of similarity. The results showed that when laughter is shared it has consistent effects on how the strangers interacted with and perceived each other and that those effects were overwhelmingly positive.

But what’s laughing got to do with sales I hear you say? When people share a laugh they send and receive a signal that they see the world in the same way, this promotes likability and alignment.

By sharing a laugh you build a connection, you create an unspoken bond and you align yourself to your customer ultimately strengthening your relationship. And with agreeance and likability the building block for rapport within sales relationships, sharing a laugh is just another tool of the trade.

So remember sales is a people business, with selling and buying done by human beings who crave connection and alignment. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and add some silliness to your connections.

Laugh at yourself, not at others and you will find that the world will join in.

Want to understand how soft skills such as laughter can strengthen your sales relationships and drive ongoing success for your business? Call EQ Sales on 0435 949 117 for a free consultation today.

Jokes provided at no extra cost.

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