You probably already know this. In humor, timing is everything. Deliver the punch line too soon, and you get to the end before the audience is ready. Get there too late, and the story loses momentum. The best comedians know how long to wait, and when to deliver the line that connects with the audience. Done correctly, and people burst out laughing, chortle quietly, or snort a bit.
Liam Byrne, the former Chief of the Treasury, of the late Labour government in Britain, could have done with some lessons in timing. Apparently he left David Laws, the newly appointed successor to this post in the Conservative-Liberal coalition, a short note that read, “I’m afraid to tell you that there’s no money left.” If the economy was booming, it might have been funny. But, given the fact that the unemployment in the United Kingdom is at its highest for 14 years and that the country now faces its largest deficit ever, his timing could not have been worse.
Unfortunately, this problem is not limited to government. Similar problems occur in the workplace everyday. What for many passes as ill-timed humor, instead reflects the overall lack of interpersonal communication skills. The problem seems to be, how to get this message across to the offenders.
Bruce Hoag, PhD, CPsychol