Money·3 min read

Skimm'd from the Couch: Dr. Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas

Feb 3, 2021

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Do you ever feel like you don’t show your real personality at work? Our guests this week, Dr. Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas, say unfortunately, that’s pretty common. They study and teach at Stanford’s business school. And through their research, they found it’s okay - and important - to show your coworkers that you’re human. Which includes having a sense of humor. This week, they sat down with us to share why laughter really can be the best medicine...especially in a Zoom meeting. 

If you want to learn more, you can buy their new book. It’s called "Humor, Seriously." Seriously. Buy it here

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On "Being Funny"

Danielle: I feel like the scariest thing would be to try to be funny and then realize you are just not.

Naomi: …. My passion for humor and comedy did not come from a place of, "Oh, wow, I think I have a talent in this." Actually it came from a place of, "I think this is one of the most important things that I can possibly do for my own experience of life." I think it's just one of the most connecting things that we have as people, is to find ways to create joy together…. To your point about having a real fear of's the biggest fear from our students when they walk into the classroom is, "Oh my gosh, are you gonna ask me to be funny?"

And the reality is that the most important thing that we can do in our lives is not tell jokes and be funny. The most important thing we can do is have a fundamental mindset shift in how we look at the world. And that is navigating the world on the precipice of a smile. Just looking for reasons to be delighted rather than disappointed, looking for reasons to smile, and being more generous with our laughter. And we find that when students walk in, they're like, "Okay, ten weeks from now I'm gonna be able to tell jokes." And in fact by ten weeks in the future, that doesn't matter. What matters is they're navigating their lives and they're finding more joy and humor and levity without even really trying.

On Showing Personality In the Office

Danielle: How common is it that people turn off some of their personality within the workplace?

Jennifer: With our students, and even the executives that we teach, we find it to be incredibly common…. We often believe that certain characteristics about ourselves, like our sense of humor or having some levity or even smiling or being a human, have no place in the workforce. Because if we take our work seriously, we should take ourselves seriously.

But the research shows that even just laughing has unparalleled effects on our neurochemistry and our behavior. So literally, when you laugh together it changes the chemistry of your brain to make you more prime for connection, more creative, and more resilient to stress.

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