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Can a sense of humour help you cope with stressful situations like a cancelled flight?

Can a sense of humour help you  cope with stressful situations like a cancelled flight?

My own sense of humour was tested this week when I was caught up in the latest strike action by French air traffic controllers. I was on my jollies in Spain and having a lovely time in the town of Granada (even happy people need holidays ) when a news flash appeared on my phone on Tuesday afternoon.

The strike meant over 40% of flights from and over French airspace would be cancelled on Wednesday 8th and Thursday 9th April, including my flight the following day. My instant reaction was not to embrace Laughology philosophy and reframe the situation with humour - but something quite different. A few curse words and sudden panic.

I needed to be back for work commitments and I was stranded in Spain. After a few sharp intakes of breath and some more swearing my partner and I hatched a plan. We called Ryanair, managed to change our flights and rework our plans. My sense of humour suddenly returned and I was then in a different frame of mind.

Was this really such a huge problem? I was lucky as I had options, I could get events covered by my team and had a place to stay and on a positive note an extra few days of holiday. My partner and I were also able to laugh about it afterwards ..…yes I said afterwards. And that’s the thing. Humour is an important tool and it’s all about timing. Knowing when to use it is vital to it working in the right way and not having a negative impact.

Using solution focused thinking (thinking about what is possible, rather than what is not possible), talking and taking action in this situation was important. I wondered if French air traffic control had taken this approach? When tensions are tight it is very easy to lose our sense of humour and to focus on the problems.

This can cause further conflict. Even when you’re the most grounded person tension can do all kinds of things, just ask my partner who was on holiday with me! However when there are issues brewing, conversations and solution focused thinking are most important. If you have conflict at your work you might need to engage with an external facilitator to help people talk through and think through issues differently.

Having a third party involved who is impartial can really help manage difficult conversations and encourage people to open up to talk about feelings. Following steps such as

  • Talking about issues without blame
  • Offering solutions
  • Taking time to recognise feeling and emotions
  • Having regular talking meetings to see how the people/person is feeling
  • Having an ideas half an hour to hear all possibilities without any interruptions
  • Following through on agreeable actions
  • Being totally honest about why decision are made

We are humans and we do react, accepting this happens is part of what makes us human. However ensuring we have the right tools to deal and managed conflict and problems when they arrive will ensure we can be happy, resilient humans who can deal with life’s challenges.

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Thursday, 23 September 2021

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