Allen Klein said that humor cannot change a situation, but it can change your attitude about it.
I am working on a lease where I represent a restaurant tenant against a well-known, national REIT landlord. Needless to say, the landlord’s form lease is crazy-long and overly one sided, and the landlord is not very flexible. Faced with that situation, it is easy to develop a bad attitude. So when I got the landlord’s response to my comments (all of my comments were of course absolutely necessary just to get the lease in a reasonably fair condition), or should I say rejection of my comments, I started getting irritable.
But then halfway through the lease, I saw the landlord’s attorney had inserted a provision requiring our client to provide free wine to the landlord’s attorney as a way to resolve a certain issue. I laughed out loud and some of my irritation with the attorney went away. Then, in response to my question as to how trash is handled at this center, the attorney said, “with gloves – it’s kind of gross.” That too made me laugh out loud. I started thinking I might even like this attorney.
In all seriousness, his humor did change my attitude. I saw where I might have been disagreeable merely because of the situation, as opposed to focusing on the actual substantive issue and its relative importance to our client. The fact is that the attorney’s humor made me more receptive to his position. And it made a difficult negotiation more enjoyable.
I like to joke, but my family tells me I have a propensity for telling bad jokes and a bad joke is worse than no joke. In fact, I’m not even kidding when I tell you that when he was 11 years old my oldest son (he’s now 28) wrote a school project describing me and said I will joke around or be serious, and if I tell a joke it might even be a funny joke. Now that’s funny!