When I was 19 years old, I interviewed for an internship position at a healthcare organization and – although I was completely unaware of it at the time – I nervously laughed throughout the interview.
“I’m a junior in college. hahaha.”
“Yes, I’m studying communication and hope to work with your team as an intern. Hahaha.”
“No, I don’t have any direct marketing experience, but I’m willing to learn. Hahaha.”
Suddenly, the woman interviewing me sternly said: “I don’t like your nervous laugh. It makes me not trust you. Remember that.” (Ouch, so rude!) My nervous laughter tick almost destroyed that internship opportunity. Almost.
We can all have moments when we lean on laughter or humor to get us through a nervous conversation. Just remember this, that nervous laughter isn’t fooling anyone. Others can clearly see through it for what it is, and it will always make them feel uncomfortable. No one appreciates repeated laughs or giggles used to conceal nerves, or humor used in a way that is passive aggressive.
Here’s how to get over that nervous laugh:
1. Get a game plan: Take a moment to think of another way to channel your nervous energy before you head into a conversation. Personally, I ask questions as a way to diffuse my nerves. The more space I give the other person to talk about themselves, the less pressure there is on me to come up with things to say. (And the less opportunity there is for me to laugh at the end of all my sentences.)
2. Shake it off: It’s amazing what a little movement ahead of time can do to ease your nerves. Yoga, running, pushups, taking a lap around the office are all great ways to exhaust some of that stressful energy. The less amped-up you are before having a nervous conversation, the more relaxed you can be in the moment. Doing this will curb your nervous laughter and help you feel confident.
3. Listen. Often times when we are nervous, we are listening to reply…not listening to learn. When we listen to reply, we are scrambling to come up with a counterpoint or response that sounds smart or witty. If, instead, we listen to learn, we can most often find a way to seamlessly build upon what the other person is saying. This keeps the conversation naturally flowing and leaves less room for that nervous laugh that tells the other person we couldn’t think of anything else to say.
I love laughter. I love it so much that I write and perform sketch comedy as a hobby! Well-timed and legitimate laughter in a conversation is a joyful thing. It can lighten moods and let the other person know we are listening to them. But keep it, real, ya’ll. If we laugh just to laugh, then the whole situation becomes a joke…and that’s no laughing matter.
(See what I did there? Oh, pa-rum-pum. Try the veal folks, I’ll be here all week!)