Asperger's survival guide: humor

Gisele Slater-Walker

Here are some tips for those trying to better understand humor and its uses.

+ An autistic person's sense of humour is often about things which suggest silliness, ridiculousness or which appear slightly insane.

+ It may be necessary to keep your laughter to yourself when there is something which is funny to you but not as funny to other people. Laughter is one of the best feelings in the world and to have to hold it back is a nuisance but, none the less, to laugh at the wrong times may annoy other people.

+ A non-autistic person's sense of humour is often to do with finding clever ways of pointing out faults in other people and causing them embarrassment. Everyone is a victim of someone else's humour at some time or another but some people are made to suffer more than others. Sometimes, non-autistic people can get quite ruthless with their humour. This is especially true amongst teenagers and younger adults who are perhaps less likely to care than older people.

+ In the eyes of many zoologists, humour is a human replacement for the violence which animals use on each other to establish an order of dominance (the pecking order).

+ No-one talks about the pecking order of which they are a part.

+ Many gangs or groups of people are not particularly welcoming to outsiders but some are more welcoming than others.

+ Often, the reason two or more people gang up on one person is because it gives them a feeling of being united together. For reasons such as this, it is often easier to talk seriously to people if you can find them on their own.

+ If you say or do something which can be misinterpreted into a sexual context then it probably will be as a joke, often at your expense.

+ If you are a victim of someone else's humour, it is often possible to translate it (in your own mind) into constructive criticism and then it might be personality building.

+ If a joke aimed at you is not too harsh, it may be a good idea to laugh at yourself.

+ If a joke or some sarcasm aimed at you is too harsh, you can say "what do you mean by that", "why did you say that", "what's that supposed to mean" or "that's not very nice". You may have to use your discretion in order to choose a suitable answer but putting someone on the spot can be quite a good defence.

+ If a joke or some sarcasm aimed at you is down right hurtful, here is a last resort you can use. Calmly say that you found the joke hurtful and ask if it was meant to be hurtful. If the other person says "can't you take a joke?" or messes you around in some other way, stick to your guns and just calmly ask them again if they meant it to be hurtful. If they answer "no", then you have got what you needed. If they answer "yes" then calmly walk away and in future, make it very difficult for that person to talk to you until they apologise of their own accord.

+ Questions are often a much more powerful form of defense than statements.

+ Remember that people who put you down unfairly and without purpose are often feeling weak in themselves and are mirroring their own feelings of weakness onto you.

+ If you wish to join in and make jokes at the expense of other people, bear in mind the following:

- Try not to make your jokes hurtful even if other people do. People who do this are usually in the wrong.

- Try not to aim your humour at people wittier or funnier than yourself because they might retaliate and will probably do better than you, causing you to lose face. It is the verbal equivalent of picking a fight with someone bigger than you.

- Also, try not to aim your humour at people quieter or more shy than yourself. It is the verbal equivalent of bullying or picking a fight with someone smaller than you.

- Don't make jokes about peoples mums or dads unless everyone else is. To make jokes like these at the wrong time can make people violent towards you.

+ Try to avoid laughing at your own humour.

+ Comedy is not just about playful confrontation, it is also a very clever way in which people can accept the tragedies of life without getting depressed. "If we didn't laugh then we'd cry".

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