Running a business is serious but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a silly side. I’d argue that having a silly side probably makes you a better business person; especially if a big part of your day is interacting with others. Some of the most serious topics are best approached with a dose of humor.
Silly comes in a few flavors
For me. there are three kinds of silly. First, we have business-appropriate silly that works during office hours. This would include finding ways to have fun while making money, telling appropriate jokes and slipping in funny one-liners here and there. The second kind of silly is just plain craziness that can happen after business hours with friends. Sure, business associates can see this side of you too, but they should be ones who have become friends. Finally, there is that hybrid silly that comes into play at business events after hours. Do you really still want your tie tight and your language and demeanor completely buttoned up when others are letting loose a little bit?
Serious is different
There is pretty much only one kind of serious. When a situation requiring your attention involves the safety of yourself or others or significant monetary consequences, it’s time to be serious. Think about teaching a teenager to drive. When you’re riding in that passenger seat, it’s not the time to be telling jokes. Remember, your driver is in control of a several thousand pound machine capable of killing people. How about negotiating a business deal that will support your company’s fixed costs for 12 months? Yes, that’s another time to be focused and serious. These are moments that matter and require your full focus and attention to detail.
Balancing the silly and the serious
Wouldn’t it be cool if the world was black and white and there were 100 percent serious and 100 percent silly times? It would make it easier to create some rules for the above definitions. The reality is that when your kid really messes up while you are teaching them to drive, screaming at them is not the answer. That may seem like the appropriate serious response, but honestly a one-liner, like “Oh man, I remember when I did that 30 years ago while Grandma was teaching me to drive.” is just a better way to handle it. (Yes, this is a true story.) On the other hand, when you’re hanging out with friends being silly and someone crosses a line, it’s time to stop joking around and stand your ground. A quick serious statement can address a bad situation immediately rather than letting things get out of control.
The world is not a black and white place. We need to balance all sorts of behaviors like silly and serious every day. What does your strategy for dealing with the silly and serious look like?