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Laughing Etiquette: Is it appropriate to laugh at this?

There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The old saying, ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ has been proven to have some truth in it: studies have been conducted showing how people who can laugh at themselves and at life live longer and more happily. Laughter is aerobic and releases serotonin, which boosts your immunity, shoots pain-relieving endorphins around your bloodstream and even counters the effects of stress.

A little judgement should be exercised, however, before unleashing laughter indiscriminately. Laughing at a funeral is never acceptable, but laughing at the wake afterwards can be a life-affirming release. Laughing at a child’s ear-piercing first attempts to play their recorder will never endear you to their proud parents; laughing at their stories of the little one’s potty-training escapades will. It’s all about prepositions – laughing with but not at.

Having a laugh with friends, family or loved-ones is what life is all about; laughing at someone else, or at someone else’s expense, will lead to trouble. Stay clear of such trouble by being a generous chuckler, momentarily checking at what or whom your laughter is directed and remembering that laughter can also be cruel.

As for how one laughs – the sound of laughter is not universally tinkling and infections, and can be downright grating. Ask a close friend for honest feedback on whether your laughter is charming or, frankly, frightening. 

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Gia G. Dixon
Gia G. Dixon

I’m Gia G. Dixon, an ILM certified etiquette consultant. Here is my guide to elegant style, high quality living, and little things that make your daily life glamorous.

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