You should have humor as part of your personal branding – but make sure your humor fits the situation: Choose the right time and place to use suitable, relevant, and brief wittiness. Still, if in doubt, go for it. Good people will be grateful for your attempt to put them at ease.
To ratchet up your quick wit: do or say something unexpected, present a paradox, give an anecdote, present an odd fact or outlandish detail, or simply cleverly arrange your words to offer a surprise. One business journal writer took the slogan “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and cleverly titled his blog post, “What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness.” That’s good humor. And don’t use sarcastic, corny, or slapstick humor.
Light self-deprecating is good because it doesn’t offend anyone. It’s also an offensive move because it prevents someone else from throwing the first punch at you. Self-deprecating is okay, but never deprecate others. Also, don’t overdo your self-deprecating as this may signal a low self-esteem or other undesirable traits.
Yes, there is a risk in using humor as there is in everything else. Every once in a while your attempt at levity will fall flat. Sometimes you don’t express the funny side well, whomever your speaking to may have his mind elsewhere and you caught him off guard—or you just weren’t that amusing. Your attempt might have been too esoteric, sardonic, sarcastic, mean, nasty, bizarre, or just not understood and people will not laugh out loud. Do not let past misjudgments inhibit you from trying better the next time. Rethink your choice of levity but do not stop the use of it. Your wit doesn’t have to make others chortle, or generate the kind of laugh that makes them have to cross their legs, but it’s good to at least cause a gentle smile. If you make your conversation or messages boring from a lack of good cheer you will not be first choice or taken as a serious and powerful contender.
A C-suite executive who lost favor with the CEO was described, “He talks too fast, doesn’t smile enough, and had no sense of humor.” Now there were other factors that led to his downfall, but that was the sentence said to the board. Sometimes having a good-natured humor is more important than the right answer, decision, approach, look, or response.