Laughter Yoga professionals all have had to deal at some point with people so stuck in their head that they just didn’t want to laugh. It’s unavoidable. In the workplace it’s usually because the boss had a great idea and forced his/her employees to attend a “surprise” workshop and they have no idea about what it is about. In public sessions it’s usually because someone forced someone else to come along because they thought it would be good for them.
Whatever the reason some people come and then get stuck in the conviction that Laughter Yoga is idiotic, stupid, insane, pointless, childish, of bad taste, etc. and they don’t want to have anything to do with it.
How will you make them laugh?
I have faced this situation myself many times. The process I use in those instances is fool-proof and has never failed me. You can master it too with practice. Here it is in a nutshell:
People who don’t laugh are telling you indirectly that they are stuck in their head. Talking them out of it is not the best idea. It’s not easy to drown a fish in water.
Several tricks are possible.
A good one is to hide in plain sight and defuse the tension by making it clear upfront that Laughter Yoga is indeed weird – to put it mildly – yet it works and very powerfully so. Another viewpoint would be to say that it’s not weird, it’s different. It’s not silly, it’s playful. It’s not funny, it’s fun. Etc. Only attempt this one if you are well grounded in your own shoes, know your script, and are in full resonance with the mindset of the people you are talking to. It can easily backfire.
A much easier one is to stop their thinking process by engaging them in anything physical. This is not difficult at all and should be a primer for all Laughter professionals. We will review this and many more professional techniques in my 2011 Laughter Yoga teacher trainings.
Step one is to win them over. Learn to illustrate all the key points you want to make with a physical exercise. First they do the exercise, then tell them what it means. A classic in that line (one of many) is to have participants put one hand on their nose and tell you (or others) what they see (this should confuse them a bit, and that’s the whole point). Next have them put their hand 2 feet away and again tell what they see. Point out that now they can see better. Morality: laughter creates distance and puts everything in its proper perspective.
Step two is to weed out participants who really don’t want to be there. It’s easy with the step one approach (read it again). Either they do what you ask them to do or they don’t.
If they do then know that whatever their words may say they have effectively given you power over them. Keep them engaged physically and bring on a laughter session. Quickly. It will work.
If they don’t, first innocently play with peer pressure. Engage most of the group in something physical (e.g. lift one hand up – you don’t have to give an explanation) and purposely play with silence for a few seconds while you wait for the trouble makers to do like everybody else. If they still won’t engage physically then you have a real problem. Your last chance is to find words (you have seconds, not minutes) that will convince them to engage. This is a skill that requires its share of intuition and personal experience. If you don’t have it yet then make it safe and invite all those who want to participate to please step forward. Everybody else is welcome to sit, watch, and join the group at their convenience if and when they want to.