‘Elder son is a parliamentarian, the other son is also up to no good’: Humour, melts the hardest heart | Sunday Observer

‘Elder son is a parliamentarian, the other son is also up to no good’: Humour, melts the hardest heart

 Humour is often the best way to keep a small misunderstanding from escalating into a big issue. Recently, a friend of mine had a squabble with his wife as she drove him to the airport. At the airport, he felt miserable, and knew she did, too. Just as she reached home, she got a text message from her husband. “Honey, please solve this problem for me. Create a 2-word sentence from: eyeapoloenergise. Three letters are redundant.” My hint is: try taking off the 9th-12th letters.

Lots of us lose life’s tougher confrontations by mounting a frontal attack, when in fact, a touch of humour might enable us to chalk up a win.

Consider the case of Sujeeva, the young sales executive, who hit a traffic jam en route to work shortly after receiving an ultimatum, about being late on the job. Although there was a good reason for his chronic tardiness - serious illness at home - Sujeeva decided that this, by-now-familiar excuse, wouldn’t work any longer.

Sujeeva entered the office at 8:55a.m. The place was so quiet that one could hear a pin drop; everyone was hard at work. Sujeeva’s manager was moving towards him with a grim face. Suddenly, Sujeeva forced a smile, looked straight into the eyes of the manager and said, “Good morning, Sir. I understand a vacancy for a sales executive became available just 25 minutes ago. Can I give you an Application form?”

The room exploded with laughter. The supervisor clamped off a smile and walked back to his office. Sujeeva had saved his job, at least for that day - with the only tool that helped to win, a laugh.

Humour helps

Humour is a most effective, yet, frequently neglected means of handling difficult situations in life. It can be used for patching up differences of opinion, apologizing, saying “no,” or getting the other guy to do what you want without his losing face. It is a way to discuss subjects so sensitive that serious dialogue may start a riot.

Humour is often the best way to keep a small misunderstanding from escalating into a big issue. Recently, a friend of mine had a squabble with his wife as she drove him to the airport.

At the airport, he felt miserable, and knew she did, too. Just as she reached home, she got a text message from her husband. “Honey, please solve this problem for me. Create a 2-word sentence from: eyeapoloenergise. Three letters are redundant.” My hint is: try taking off the 9th-12th letters. In the twinkling of an eye, the whole day changed from grim to lovely at both ends of the mobile phone.

Let me give you another experience. A hostess with a quick wit was giving a formal dinner for eight distinguished guests whom she hoped to enlist in a major charity drive. To add a little colour to the occasion, she had got her children to serve the meal. She knew that anything could happen - and it did, just as her son, with the studied concentration of a tightrope walker, brought in a large roast chicken. He successfully elbowed the swinging dining-room door, but the back swing hit his elbow throwing the bird on to the top of the cutlery cupboard.

The boy stood rooted; guests stared at their plates. Moving only her head, the hostess smiled at her son. “No harm, son, its fine,” she said. “Just pick him up and take him back to the kitchen” - she emphasised clearly so he would think about what she was saying –“and bring in the other one.” A wink and a one-liner instantly changed the dinner from a red-faced embarrassment to a conspiracy of fun.

The power of humour to dissolve a hostile confrontation often lies in its unspoken promise: “You let me off the hook, my friend, and I’ll let you off.” The trick is to assign friendly motives to your opponent, to smile just a little - but not too much.

Roland Michener when he was Canada’s Governor-General, was about to inspect a public school when he was faced with the aggressive picket line of striking maintenance personnel. If he backed away from the line, he would seriously diminish his office’s image; if he crossed it, he might put the government smack into a hot labour issue.

Grassroots humour

He pondered the matter for a minute and suddenly smiled and spoke. “Boys, how very nice of you all to turn out to see me!” he boomed. “Thank you very much. Shall we go in, now?” The line parted and, by the time the pickets began to chuckle, the governor-general was striding briskly up the school steps.

Similarly, whenever we start taking ourselves a little too seriously, a grassroots humour seems to rise and strew banana peels in our path. I heard once, two Catholics in conversation.

“I do not understand why God made man at the end of the week’s work,” one said. “That is why,” the other said, “He did so many mistakes. He was so tired.”

Very recently I heard a senior citizen commenting on a family. “The elder son is a parliamentarian and the other son is also up to no good”

Such masters of comic deflation restore the balance.

Decent humour

Not only common man but, men with responsibilities too, have frequently used humour to solve giant problems, often with a sweeping effect. When Gen. George C. Marshall, was the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, he laboured to prepare the American nation to enter World War II.

He had to counter opposition from President Roosevelt, as to whether the Army or Navy should be in the forefront. Marshall being an Army man wanted the highly developed ground forces. President Roosevelt was a Navy man who believed that a powerful navy, plus a large air force would deliver.

The debate went on for hours and finally, during a particularly hot session, the usually stone-faced Marshall forced a grin. “At least, Mr. President,” he said, “you might stop referring to the Navy as us and the Army as them.”

Roosevelt studied Marshall over his glasses for one whole minute, smiled, and then began to laugh. Thereafter, he made a more objective study of Marshall’s recommendations and eventually bought the ground-force concept.

If humour can be used successfully against such odds, what can’t you and I do with it in our daily lives? 

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