What your sense of humour reveals about you

We ask a mental health professional and happiness expert what your sense of humour really says about you.

Psychology research has identified an abundance of humour styles.

Clinical psychologist Ehab Youssef says individuals tend to be drawn to specific styles based on their distinct personality traits.

So, whether you’re the life of the party or the witty observer, there’s a style of humour for you.

There are various theories and models of humour, but one commonly referenced classification is the four humour types proposed by psychologist Rod A. Martin.

These humour styles describe different ways in which individuals engage with and express humour.

Affiliative humour

People with an affiliative humour style enjoy making others laugh and fostering a positive atmosphere through humour.

They often use jokes, anecdotes, and light-hearted banter to connect with others and promote harmony in social situations.

If you have ever shared a hilarious TikTok to your group chat, or bantered amongst your co-workers, you’ve tapped into affiliative humour.

Ehab says it’s a way to “strengthen social bonds and build connections with others”.

Embrace it; it’s a trait of outgoing individuals who value social connection.

Self-enhancing humour

Remember that time you tripped down the stairs at work or spilled coffee on yourself before meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time?

Individuals with a self-enhancing humour style have the ability to find humour in their own experiences, even in challenging or stressful situations.

According to Ehab, it reflects a “positive outlook on life and the use of humour as a coping mechanism”.

Self-enhancing humour involves being able to laugh at oneself, find the silver lining in difficult circumstances, and maintain a sense of perspective.

It’s a sign of optimism, resilience, and a growth mindset.

So keep laughing at yourself – it’s good for you!

Aggressive humour

We’ve all teased, used sarcasm, or cracked jokes at someone else’s expense.

If you’ve ever pushed your siblings’ buttons or teased a friend about their haircut, you’re familiar with aggressive – or sarcastic – humour.

But approach with caution Ehab warns; underlying traits such as assertiveness, dominance or even hostility may come into play.

Happiness Co Foundation general manager Robbie Figg says a person’s humour style can be a complex thing to decipher.

“It’s not one-size-fits-all.”

Self-defeating humour

Self-defeating humour is like a stand-up routine starring you as the punchline.

Ehab says this type of humour is “associated with low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy”.

Individuals with a self-defeating humour style use self-deprecating humour to downplay their own abilities, seek validation from others, or avoid taking themselves too seriously.

This style of humour involves making fun of oneself or highlighting one’s flaws and shortcomings in a light-hearted manner.

It’s a way to gain approval or deflect criticism.

So, what does your sense of humour reveal about you?

While everyone may exhibit elements of multiple humour styles, individuals often have a dominant humour style that characterises their typical approach to humour and interpersonal communication.

Robbie reminds us that humour involves “cultural influences, personal backgrounds and situations … (Thus) it is crucial to refrain from hasty character assessments”.

He says humour is a tricky beast.

“It varies a lot from person to person, so it’s more of a clue than a definitive measure of mental health.”

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Written by Emma Sudano.