Warning: Humor SnobNov 1st, 2013 | By Editorial Staff | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog
I like to be funny. I like to think of something funny, and I enjoy comedy, but I don’t laugh a lot. That’s my problem, because I’ve heard that laughing out loud increases your life span. I acknowledge humor, but I don’t often laugh out loud. My wife has a great laugh – loud, almost startling. She doesn’t laugh much at my humor, unless I bang my eye on something accidentally, but she laughs loud and often.
I can also be completely impervious and dismissive to humor, and when I’m at work, I’m much more likely to be all business. I try to write funny stuff for my blogs and e-newsletters, and I joke around with the guys in the shop, but with customers and suppliers, I really try to be efficient and effective, not funny. With customers, I do try to engage in conversation, to see how I can help them – figure out what they really need, learn about their business – but I doubt that my jokes are going to help them much, so I don’t often venture into that territory.
As a result of this all-business approach, I’ve often been judged negatively by co-workers who are apparently at work to socialize. Have you ever completed one of those personality tests that tell you whether you’re introverted or extroverted, or thinking or doing, or something like that? Whatever the measurements are, when I run into the type that is opposite to me, they think I’m way too serious or not fun to work with.
We all know certain people who are very caring toward almost everyone they deal with. They are quick to make sacrifices, and they genuinely want to help as many people as they can. I admire and respect these people. I think that’s such a tall order, though, to feel like you can help so many different people. It seems to me that focusing your caring on the people who are central in your life is much more effective, and that simply being professional and respectful to people on the periphery is sufficient. Also, taking care of yourself, respecting yourself, having high self-esteem are also very effective ways to help other people, because then they don’t need to be enabling your insecurities.
I used to work with a driver (when I was a lowly driver myself) who had an anger problem. Most of the time he was a good-natured, happy guy, but when he got angry, he was scary. Clearly he was storing away a lot of negative emotion and it would occasionally burst out. He directed his anger at me only a few times, but each time he would refer to what he perceived as my unfriendliness by not saying “Hi” with a smile on my face each day when I saw him at work. Never mind that he never said it if I didn’t – I guess he just expected me to initiate the daily greeting. I can go whole weeks without saying “Hi” to anyone, so I had no idea it bugged him until the first time he screamed it at me from six inches away. That demonstrated to me the value of being outwardly friendly.
One of our suppliers recently hired a new customer service rep and I’ve had occasional problems getting what we need from this supplier with complete accuracy and timeliness, so I am very meticulous in my dealings with them (they have shipped wrong parts, shipped to wrong addresses, etc.). I prefer to communicate via email with suppliers, because it documents important data, like part numbers and quantities. I emailed to ask if he had a part in stock, and he replied that he did, but that they only sold the item in pairs. I emailed back to ask if we could purchase just one, because our customer needed only one. A couple hours went by and I didn’t hear back, so I emailed a colleague in his office whom I felt would straighten it out. The new guy called me shortly afterward, confused, because he had been joking about the selling only in pairs. I felt compelled to explain that the demand to purchase in pairs thing is no joke with many suppliers and I’ve been asked to do things much more ridiculous by much more dependable suppliers, but I just asked him to ship the part. Now every time I talk to him on the phone, he comments about my lack of a sense of humor or my general silence in response to his bubbliness (somehow he can tell through the phone that I’m not smiling). I think he’s kind of scared of me now, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so I’ll probably cultivate that a little.
I think the problem I have with humor is the same problem I now have with fruit. Two years ago, we found out that one of the families from my son’s baseball team has connections to orchard owners in Hood River (one of the best fruit-growing communities in the world) and we started getting crates of cherries, pears, peaches and apples from them. Now, I cannot eat a store-bought peach or pear. Store-bought apples are barely tolerable. I told this baseball dad what they had done to me and he said, “Oh, yeah. You’re a fruit snob. That’s what happens.” I think I’m a humor snob. I judge the humor on its own, apart from the context of the source, so if the nicest person in the world makes a joke that they think is funny, and I don’t agree, I just don’t laugh. I might cringe. I don’t think I can fix it, either.
Oh well, you can only do so much, right? As soon as I can figure myself out, I’ll start working on everyone else.
Have a safe and profitable week.