Could Humor Help You—and Your Kids—Feel Empowered?

Research shows that cracking jokes can boost your confidence—so find the funny with these five tips.
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We spend a lot of time these days encouraging fierceness and drive in our daughters, pushing them to "lean in," work hard, and be bold. But maybe we should be sharpening their wit instead?

That's the premise behind a new wave of research, which shows that cracking wise can make you seem more confident, intelligent—and yet, also more human—according to a study by researchers at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. And researcher Lisa Damour, author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood believes those skills and strengths can be incredibly important to girls. “One of the things that happens to girls is that they are encroached upon by the world,” Damour told the Washington Post.” “And one of the things that humor can do is . . . help girls stand up for themselves in ways that people don’t retaliate for.”

Sounds good, right? So good, in fact, that I'm testing the theory myself by taking a standup comedy class. It seemed like a good idea until I got to the first class and had to stand up and talk in front of a group of people about something I hated. (It helped—a little—that my teacher at the American Comedy Institute was hilarious standup vet Becky Veduccio—who happens to be a good friend of mine.) But as each week progressed, I found myself feeling funnier, a tad bit more confident, and having a great time. (What's better than spending a few hours every week having people try hard—and succeed—at making you laugh?)

I'm about to do my first standup set (yikes!) this weekend. But even if you're not about to take the mic, you can use these tricks to add a little more laughter to your life—and help your kids find the funny. 

Know your audience. This is especially important in the workplace, where an off-color joke could land you in hot water. Stick with topics that are relatable—and don't be afraid to be a little self-deprecating. 

Ask "what if." Building a strong joke relies a lot on looking for the absurd in your everyday life—and then taking it one step further to make it even more ridiculous. How is the situation you're in like something else that's a little unrelated? Does your carpool run  make you feel a bit like you're in the Fast and the Furious? Share what you and Vin Diesel have in common.

Keep your setup short. Get to the punchline as quickly as you can—leave out any detail leading up to it that isn't essential to the joke. 

Know the power of threes. There's something funny about threes—and if most comedians make a list of things, the third one is inevitably the punch line. 

Be bold on the punch line. A joke doesn't work if you can't hear the punch line. Make sure that you say it loud and proud—and really "punch" it.

Accentuate your strengths. There no one "right" way to be funny–think of the sly, fast-talking monologues of Tina Fey; the high-energy, nearly angry sets from Chris Rock; and the slow, deadpan humor of Ellen Degeneres. Your delivery should definitely match your personality.

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