EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Improving Playfull Communication Skills in Relationships


THE POWER OF LAUGHTER, HUMOR AND PLAY

Laughter has a powerful effect on your health and well-being. A good laugh relieves tension and stress, elevates mood, enhances creativity and problem-solving ability, and provides a quick energy boost. But even more importantly, laughter brings people together. Mutual laughter and play are an essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships—as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends.

The power of laughter and play

Playful communication is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships exciting, fresh, and vital. Laughter and play enrich your interactions and give your relationships that extra zing that keeps them interesting, light, and enjoyable. This shared pleasure creates a sense of intimacy and connection—qualities that define solid, lasting relationships.

People are attracted to happy, funny individuals. Laughter draws others to you and keeps them by your side. When you laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment. And laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain to smile and join in on the fun.

Playful communication helps you:

  • Connect to others. Your health and happiness depend, to a large degree, on the quality of your relationships—and laughter binds people together.
  • Smooth over differences. Using gentle humor often helps you broach sensitive subjects, resolve disagreements, and reframe problems.
  • Feel relaxed and energized at the same time. Laughter relieves fatigue and relaxes your body, while also recharging your batteries and helping you accomplish more.
  • Overcome problems and setbacks. A sense of humor is the key to resilience. It helps you take hardships in stride, weather disappointment, and bounce back from adversity and loss.
  • Put things into perspective. Most situations are not as bleak as they appear to be when looked at from a playful and humorous point of view.
  • Be more creative. Humor and playfulness loosen you up, energizing thinking and inspiring creative problem solving.

The health benefits of laughter

Laughter and playfulness also come with numerous physical and mental health benefits. Laughter triggers a host of healthy changes in your brain and body.

Laughter helps you stay healthy by:

  • Boosting your mood
  • Decreasing stress hormones
  • Improving oxygen flow to the brain
  • Reducing physical pain
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Protecting the heart
  • Relaxing your body

Mental health benefits of laughter and humor

The mental health benefits of laughter are tied to the physical benefits. When your body is relaxed and energized, you are better able to think and communicate clearly. This helps you keep your own emotions in check, relate in a positive way to others, and resolve conflict.

Laughter is a particularly powerful antidote to depression and anxiety. Having a sense of humor offsets depression and anxiety by:

  • Releasing endorphins. When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that boost mood and override sadness and negative thoughts.
  • Putting things into perspective. Most situations are not as bleak as they appear to be when looked at from a playful and humorous point of view.
  • Connecting us to others. Our mental health depends, to a large degree, on the quality of our relationships—and laughter binds people together.

Playful communication in relationships tip #1: Make sure both partners are in on the joke

Humor and playfulness can strengthen relationships—but only when both people are in on the joke. It’s important to be sensitive to the other person. If your partner, friend, or colleague isn’t likely to appreciate the joke, don’t say or do it, even if it’s “all in good fun.” When playfulness is one-sided rather than mutual, it undermines trust and goodwill and damages the relationship. Consider the following example:

Michelle’s feet are always cold when she gets into bed, but she has what she thinks is a playful solution. She heats up her icy feet by placing them on her husband Kevin’s warm body. However, this isn’t a game he enjoys. Kevin has repeatedly told Michelle that he doesn’t appreciate being used as a foot warmer, but she just laughs at his complaints. Lately, Kevin has taken to sleeping at the far edge of the bed, a solution that distances them as a couple.

Playful communication in relationships should be equally fun and enjoyable for both people. If your friend or partner doesn’t think your joking or teasing is funny—it’s not. So before you start playing around, take a moment to consider your motives, as well as your partner or friend’s state of mind and sense of humor.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you feel calm, clear-headed, and connected to the other person?
  • Is your true intent to communicate positive feelings—or are you taking a dig, expressing anger, or laughing at the other person’s expense?
  • Are you sure that the joke will be understood and appreciated?
  • Are you aware of the emotional tone of the nonverbal messages you are sending? Are you giving off positive, warm signals or a negative, aggressive, or hostile tone?
  • Are you sensitive to the nonverbal signals the other person is sending? Do they seem open and receptive to your humor, or closed-off and offended?
  • Are you willing and able to back off if the other person responds negatively to the joke?
  • If you say or do something that offends, is it easy for you to immediately apologize?

Playful communication in relationships tip #2: Use humor to defuse conflict

When conflict and disagreement throw a wrench in your relationships, humor and playfulness can help lighten things up and restore a sense of connection. Used skillfully and respectfully, playful humor can turn conflict into an opportunity for shared fun and intimacy. It allows you to get your point across without getting the other person’s defenses up or hurting their feelings. For example:

Lori’s husband comes home sweaty and dirty from his job. This turns her off, and she can’t imagine being intimate with him under these circumstances. But when she says he should take a bath, he gets angry and accuses her of not appreciating what he does for a living. So instead, Lori turns on the water, begins playfully peeling off his clothes, and joins him in the tub.

Alex is retired, but he still goes up on the roof to clean the gutters. His wife, Angie, has told him numerous times that it scares her when he gets up there on the ladder. Today, instead of her usual complaints, she yells up to him, “You know, it’s husbands like you who turn wives into nags.” Alex laughs and comes down from the roof.

Humor and playfulness—free or hurtful sarcasm or ridicule—neutralize conflict by helping you:

  • Interrupt the power struggle, instantly easing tension and allowing you to reconnect and regain perspective.
  • Be more spontaneous. Shared laughter and play helps you break free from rigid ways of thinking and behaving, allowing you to see the problem in a new way and find a creative solution.
  • Be less defensive. In playful settings, we hear things differently and can tolerate learning things about ourselves that we otherwise might find unpleasant or even painful.
  • Let go of inhibitions. Laughter opens us up, freeing us to express what we truly feel and allowing our deep, genuine emotions to rise to the surface.

Playful communication in relationships tip #3: Don’t use humor to cover up other emotions

Humor and shared playfulness help you stay resilient in the face of life’s challenges. But there are times when humor is not healthy—when it is used as a cover for avoiding, rather than coping with, painful emotions. Laughter can be a disguise for feelings of hurt, fear, anger, and disappointment that you don’t want to feel or don’t know how to express.

You can be funny about the truth—but covering up the truth isn’t funny. When you use humor and playfulness as a cover for other emotions, you create confusion and mistrust in your relationships. The following are examples of misplaced humor:

Mike is a constant jokester. Nothing ever seems to get him down and he never takes anything seriously. No matter what happens to him or to anyone else, he makes a joke out of the situation. In reality, Mike is scared to death of dark feelings, conflict, and intimacy. He uses humor to avoid uncomfortable feelings and to keep other people at arm’s length.

Sharon is often jealous and possessive with her husband Kevin. But she has never learned to openly discuss her insecurities and fears. Instead, she uses what she thinks is humor to express her feelings. However, her “jokes” usually having a biting, almost hostile edge and do not seem at all funny to Kevin, who responds with coldness and withdrawal.

For cues as to whether or not humor is being used to conceal other emotions, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do nonverbal communication signals—such as tone of voice, intensity, timing—feel genuinely humorous to you, or do you experience them as forced or “not right” somehow?
  • Is humor the only emotion you routinely express, or is there a mixture of other emotions that at least occasionally includes sadness, fear, and anger?

Improving your playful communication skills

It’s never too late to develop and embrace your playful, humorous side. Self-consciousness and concern for how you look and sound to others is probably a big factor that’s limiting your playfulness. But as a baby, you were naturally playful; you didn’t worry about the reactions of other people.

You can reclaim your inborn playfulness by setting aside regular, quality playtime. The more you joke, play, and laugh—the easier it becomes.

Cultivating your sense of humor and playfulness

The process of learning to play depends on your preferences. Begin by observing what you already do that borders on fun or playful.

After you recognize things you already enjoy, you can try to incorporate more playful activities into your life. The important thing is to find enjoyable activities that loosen you up and help you embrace your playful nature with other people.

Another excellent way to learn playfulness is to practice with “experts”:

Play with animals. Kittens, and other animals—both young and old—are eager playmates and always ready to frolic. Make play dates with friends’ pets, stop to play with a friendly animal in your neighborhood, or consider getting a pet of your own.
Play with babies and young children. The real authorities in human play are children, especially young children. Playing with children who know and trust you is a wonderful way to learn from the experts.
Interact playfully with customer service people. Most people in the service industry are social and you’ll find that many will welcome playful banter. Try your wit out on a friendly cashier, receptionist, waiter, hostess, or salesperson.

As humor and play become an integrated part of your life, you should find new opportunities for play daily.

Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D.

The Muslim Is Friendly And Likeable


By Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi

The Muslim who truly understands the teachings of his religion is gentle, friendly and likeable. He mixes with people and gets along with them. This is something which should be a characteristic of the Muslim who understands that keeping in touch with people and earning their trust is one of the most important duties of the Muslim. It is an effective means of conveying the message of truth to them, and exposing them to its moral values, because people only listen to those whom they like, trust and accept. Hence there are many hadiths which commend the type of person who is friendly and liked by others. Such a person is one of those chosen ones who are beloved by the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and will be closest to him on the Day of Resurrection:

“Shall I not tell you who among you is most beloved to me and will be closest to me on the Day of Resurrection?” He repeated it two or three times, and they said, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam).”  He said: “Those of you who are the best in attitude and character.” [Reported by Ahmad and its isnad is jayyid]

Some reports add: “Those who are down to earth and humble, who get along with others and with whom others feel comfortable.”

One of the attributes of the believer is that he gets along with others and others feel comfortable with him. He likes people and they like him. If he is not like this, then he will not be able to convey the message or achieve anything of significance. Whoever is like that has no goodness in him, as in the hadith:

“The believer gets along with people and they feel comfortable with him. There is no goodness in the one who does not get along with people and with whom they do not feel comfortable. ” [Reported by Abmad and al-Bazar; the men of Ahmad’s isnad are rijal as-sahih]

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) set the highest example of good behaviour towards people. He was skilful in softening their hearts and called them to follow him in word and deed. He demonstrated how to reach people’s hearts and win their love and admiration.

He was always cheerful and easy-going, never harsh. When he came to any gathering, he would sit wherever there was a free space, and he told others to do likewise. He treated everyone equally, so that no one who was present in a gathering would feel that anyone else was receiving preferential treatment. If anyone came to him and asked for something, he would give it to them, or at least respond with kind words. His good attitude extended to everyone and he was like a father to them. The people gathered around him were truly equal, distinguished only by their level of taqwa.  They were humble, respecting their elders, showing compassion to young ones, giving priority to those in need and taking care of strangers.

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) never used to disappoint anyone who came to ask from him. There are three characteristics that he did not possess: he was not argumentative, he did not talk too much, and he did not concern himself with matters that were not his business.

There are three things that he never did to people: he never criticized any one, he never said “Shame on you!” to anyone, and he never looked for anyone’s faults. He never said anything but that for which he hoped to earn reward. When he spoke, the people around him would listen earnestly, sitting still as if there were birds on their heads. When he was silent, then they would speak. They never argued with one another in his presence.

They would smile at whatever he smiled at, and would be impressed by whatever impressed him. He would be patient with a stranger who might be harsh in his requests or questions, and his Companions would ask the stranger to speak gently. He said, “If you see someone in need, then help him.” He never accepted praise except from someone who was thanking him for a favour, and he never cut off anyone who was speaking; he would wait until the person indicated that he had finished, or stood up.

`A’ishah tells us that he used to be cautious of the worst type of people, and he would speak gently to them and treat them well. A man sought permission to enter upon him and he said, “Let him in, what a bad brother of his tribe he is!”

When the man came in, he spoke gently to him. `A’ishah said: “O Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), you said what you said, then you spoke gently to him.” He (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, “O `A’ishah, the worst of people is the one whom people avoid (or are gentle towards) because they fear his slander.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The true Muslim follows in the footsteps of his Prophet in his dealings with all people, whether they are good or bad, so that he is liked and accepted by all people.