Pure observation gives us the best data. Pure observation is impossible with our human brain. Yet, when we observe the Funny People in our lives, we think we see them.

In fact, our brain gathers the information we sense, including what we see, hear, feel (literally and intuitively); and, it instantly begins pulling up historical files to associate with our observations. When we see someone challenging our colleague in a public forum, our brain associates the words, tone, and meeting context with our personal experience and past decisions about people who “challenge in that way.” And we don’t wonder what we think about it. Our brain sends out a warning signal or not–depending on our historical lens.

Based on the strength of the warning signal and our personal patterns, we go into a “fight or flight” mode. And when we do, our brain is taxed with protection campaigns. Our brain can only do so much at one time, so we are likely to stop observing. Or, our observation is loaded with emotional baggage.

The antidote: Train your brain to turn a curious eye to the Funny People in your life. Associate that warning signal with the need to pay attention with curiosity. Hmmm, what is Henry doing, saying, etc.? Write some notes. Notice what others are doing-saying. Then put your brain to work at a later time to think about this Funny Person–rather than resist him or her in your own way.

One quick and personal example. We adopted my son at 14 months. And because he was not our biological child, we were very curious to “see” what he would be like. Guess what?  He is very different than his father or me. It was interesting to see how socially astute he was, often working a room and knowing every person’s name at the age of three. He was singing on the train from St. Petersburg to Moscow–and now wants a singing career. And over the years, he has become more and more our child, the adoption well in his history. We forget that he’s different from us. When he boldly stands up to us, we think “what in the world?” since his father and I were goody-two-shoes. When he is the last kid to ride a bike, keenly watching every neighbor friend but shaking his head “no”–we think “how strange for such a gregarious kid.” Now, as a teenager, we forget that he’s funny and think he should be like us. We have a constant challenge, and a very strong commitment to remember that he is the person he is because he was born in Russia, lived in an orphanage, spoke two languages as a two-year old, etc. (see Through the Lens of Another). Yet, I’m not perfect and sometimes quickly turn in frustration or  a sharp anger shoots through my system. Rather than resist the current reality, I try to be more observant. What happened here? What part of my reaction is me? How can I think through a strategy that meets our combined interests? And I am reminded that not only is he funny, but so am I.

See something or someone who triggers your funnybone? Try shifting your mindset and say (to yourself or aloud) “People are Funny!”

What type of person do you struggle with the most? Comment below and SUBSCRIBE in the sidebar to the right to receive these posts automaticcally.