We've all been in awkward situations where we've had to do icebreaker activities to get to know one another, right? Well, it turns out that maybe we should rethink how we approach those icebreakers: A new study found that laughter is the best way start new relationships, both platonic and romantic. It seems that having a good chuckle breaks down the barriers that often exist between people who have just met — meaning you might want to forget Two Truths and a Lie in favor of telling some wisecracks.
The researchers say that in order to create new bonds, you have to open up and share information about yourself — not just talk about the weather or the friends you have in common. Their experiment found that laughter was good at facilitating this sort of personal sharing, even if those involved were unaware of this effect.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University College London and the University of Oxford, used 112 students as its participants. The students were split into groups, shown a video, and then were asked to talk among themselves. The groups who laughed more, both during the video and during their small talk, shared more personal information with one another than those who didn't LOL as much.
Interestingly, the groups who incited the most laughter — and as a consequence, shared the most information about themselves — weren't actually tuned into this effect. The only ones who were aware of the level of information sharing were the study's authors; the participants didn't even notice it as it happened. This makes sense if you think about comedy, for example: Comedians often share personal information about themselves in their acts, but it never really feels like they're completely opening their lives to the audience.
Although you might think this happens because laughter results in positive emotions, the researchers say we can actually attribute it to the physiological. Lead researcher Alan Gray explains their reasoning, saying that "This seems to be in line with the notion that laughter is linked specifically to fostering behaviors that encourage relationship development, since observer ratings of disclosure may be more important for relationship development than how much one feels one is disclosing." It seems then that how you feel about someone's disclosure could actually have a larger influence on the relationship than the information that was actually exchanged.
Gray also says that for those looking to make new friends, they should seriously consider laughing — or at least studying it. "These results suggest that laughter should be a serious topic for those interested in the development of social relationships," he says. In that spirit, here are four easy ways you can create laughter when you're trying to make a new connection:
1. Learn a Few Good Jokes
You probably won't need to use these more than once, so having a few actually funny jokes up your sleeve for networking events, first dates, and happy hours can save you from the normally awkward introductions.
2. Recall Something Funny
If you need to break the ice, tell people about a funny video or comedy sketch that you recently saw. Even better if you can save a clip or hilarious picture of it on your phone to get them laughing with you.
3. Find the Humor in Everything
If there was a lighthearted moment or event that ties into your relation to that person (or where you are, how you met, whatever), talk about it! Many people will just let the moment pass, but this could be a great way to ease any tension.
4. Laugh at Yourself
Being able to not take yourself too seriously is a great quality and an even better way to create laughter. If you do something silly or stupid, instead of acting embarrassed and fleeing from the scene, make a joke about it and show that you're not too proud to engage in a little self-deprecating humor.
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