We all have our different strengths and weaknesses and know that there are certain areas in which we can all improve.
In my case, I’m good at the technical side of watershaping, but I’m much less accomplished in the client-relations/”people skills” department. I’ve made concerted efforts through the years to seek resources that can help me grow in this area, and my latest book selection is part of that personal quest.
Not long ago, I took a twelve-point quiz that’s designed to test whether or not you have a good sense of humor. I’ve never been a big one for telling knee-slapping jokes and I’d describe my sense of humor as “dry,” but I certainly like to laugh and I’ve always considered myself as being someone who enjoyed things on the funny side. When I took this test, however, I scored a perfect zero out of twelve, so by this assessment it seems I have no sense of humor at all.
Working past this odd humiliation, I began thinking about this “deficit” and how it might be affecting my ability to work easily with clients and colleagues. The way I see it, people who know how to use their senses of humor have an easier time bonding with clients and find easier ways to diffuse tense situations. Right then and there, I decided it was time to work on the lighter side of my personality, just as I have before in polishing my public-speaking skills and general creativity – the thought being that a sense of humor is basically another mental muscle that can be exercised and developed.
So I headed to a bookstore to scope out the humor section in hopes of finding a resource that would help me see the world around me in a more humorous way. There were scores of choices, so it took me a while to make a selection. As good fortune would have it, I eventually picked up a gem by Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip, that is not only loaded with laughs, but also goes along way in demonstrating how the world around us is, in fact, a savagely funny place.
Called The Dilbert Principle: A Cubicle’s Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads and Other Workplace Afflictions (United Features Syndicate, 1996), even the book’s subtitle gave me the suspicion I was making a good choice.
In this 330-page volume, Adams offers a stream of stories that his loyal readers have shared with him through the years, all framed with his satiric observations. It’s broken into more than two-dozen chapters covering a range of work-related topics, each with self-explanatory headings such as “Great Lies of Management,” “Pretending to Work,” “How to Tell if Your Company is Doomed” and my personal favorite, “Engineers, Scientists and Other Odd People.”
The material made me laugh, sometimes a lot, but what I appreciate most is the perspective reading through it all gave me about the working world and the fact that so much of what we go through in working with clients and our colleagues can be seen through a more humorous lens. After reading Adams’s observations of the working world, I feel I have a firmer grasp on the absurdity of lots of human interactions – a grasp that lets me take myself a bit less seriously and, more important, has yielded some genuine laughter and many moments of personal amusement.
Let’s face it, our world is a serious and sometimes scary place – and our work is often extremely hard and frustrating. For my part, finding some humor in the challenges that come up on a daily basis is a tonic that I can tell already will help me in a big way. I certainly won’t be taking up a career as a comedian, but I’m hopeful I won’t be quite as consistently serious as I have been in the past.
My goal is simple: Next time I take that sense-of-humor test, I’m shooting for at least two out of twelve.
Mike Farley is a landscape designer with more than 20 years of experience and is currently a designer/project manager for Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas. A graduate of Genesis 3’s Level I Design School, he holds a degree in landscape architecture from Texas Tech University and has worked as a watershaper in both California and Texas.