When an unexpected situation occurs and we are unsure how to react, we often start laughing involuntarily. Nervous laughter is one of the most peculiar reactions because it’s actually the last thing a person should do in inappropriate situations!
To make things even worse, this type of laughter is exceptionally contagious and might result in dragging some other people in to laugh with you. ‘If I’m going down, you’re going down with me’ kind of logic.
But then again, how to control this nervous laughter? Better yet, how to stop laughing at inappropriate situations?
Luckily for you, that’s something we’re about to find out today!
Let’s dive in!
What is Nervous Laughter?
First of all, you should know that laughter has many benefits for one’s health. It acts as a natural stress reliever due to the hormones it triggers. On top of that, it reduces excess adrenaline and can make us feel generally happy.
So what is so special to our minds about laughing in inappropriate settings?
According to BBC’s neuroscientist Sophie Scott, who has been fascinated by the issue of nervous laughter for years, she claims that laughter is an essential element of human behavior. She claims that we tend to laugh when we are irritated, stressed, uncomfortable, or when our body needs a way to express some type of discomfort.
Basically, when an embarrassing situation occurs, laughter becomes our only way out of it!
So what is nervous laughter?
Nervous laughter is the kind of laughter that helps us eliminate tension and reassures us that everything will be okay. It’s a form of creating a certain distance from the situation that is making us uncomfortable.
That’s why it is often called comfort laughter as well.
To be even more precise, nervous laughter results from stress or discomfort that our body tries to get rid of. It helps us eliminate negative thoughts that might go through our heads and allows us to distance ourselves from unsettling situations in everyday life.
That all sounds great, but what happens when it goes a step too far and makes us look like complete idiots? At that point, we should try to look at ways we can contain our comforting mechanism.
Can You Control Nervous Laughter?
The great news is:
Yes, you can control nervous laughter. The giggles which can hit you in unfitting situations can be contained!
However, the troubles don’t end so easily. The problematic thing is that we know that the more you try to contain your laughter, the more it seems to strengthen and become uncontrollable.
The perfect correlation for this type of laughter would be trying to hold back a sneeze. All of us have sometimes tried to hold back a sneeze, and it can be pretty challenging, more so the harder you try.
There is a noticeable difference between conscious and unconscious laughter. The one that comes out of nowhere is authentic, and it can escape from your body without you being able to control it.
As mentioned before, it’s possible to contain it. Still, since this type of laughter can come out of nowhere, it’s quite important to learn how to stop laughing when needed.
How to Stop Laughing – Curbing Your Urge to Laugh
We have finally reached the most important part of this article!
Our set of actionable tips here will help you learn how to stop laughing during a presentation, while speaking, acting, or during any other inappropriate times that may fall upon you.
Tip #1 – Identify the Routine & The Origin of Your Laughter
If you are a person who doesn’t really know how to express or control your emotions, nervous laughter might be one of the ways in which your feelings decide to come out.
Identifying the triggers of your laughter will help you understand it better and will eventually lead you to the solution to this problem.
So, our first tip is to try and find the origin of your laughter. In other words, try to understand why you need to laugh in uncomfortable situations. Then, ask yourself if this action repeats itself too often.
Perhaps you can consider talking to a close friend or a family member and see if they noticed a pattern in your behavior. Whichever method you use, try to really get to the core of this issue so that you have a higher chance of fixing it.
Tip #2 – Win the Battle with Social Anxiety
Are you an anxious person who has difficulty dealing with social situations?
This might be the cause of your nervous laughter. And by coming to terms with your social anxiety, you may solve your inappropriate laughter too.
There are different approaches and ways you can attack your social anxiety. This issue is too broad of a topic to be covered in a single article, but here are a few quick tips to consider:
- Consider finding a mental health professional to help you build a solid plan to overcome your anxiety.
- Explore different ways of building up your self-confidence.
- Gradually expose yourself to anxiety-inducing situations. Practice makes perfect!
- Create a support system of close friends and family members.
Let’s face it, all of us have been neck to neck with anxiety at least once in our lifetime. Some of us learn how to control and suppress it, while some are fighting a true war with it.
One of the consequences of social anxiety may be the nervous laughter waiting to release all of the tension that might have been pilling up inside you. To avoid causing yourself unwanted trouble in the future, understand that this is a real issue that you should take seriously.
Tip #3 – Clear Your Mind
When you feel like you are about to burst out laughing in improper situations, try to clear your mind and relax instead of actively fighting the laughter. We already explained how that makes things even worse.
To relieve tension, you could try deep breathing and meditation exercises to become aware of your surroundings and emotions.
Close your eyes for a few seconds and focus on your breath. Three seconds in, three seconds out. As your mind starts to wander to that unfortunate thing that’s making you laugh, simply bring your attention back to your breath.
Rinse and repeat until you are laughter-free!
Tip #4 – If Deep Breathing Fails, Distract Yourself
Okay, you’ve tried the breathing technique, but you still can’t help yourself. What now?
When your brain is preparing to burst out a giggle, try to occupy it with other things. For example, play a melody in your head, think of the things you need to do in the next day or two, create lists of chores, count to one hundred, or try to communicate with other people.
Distraction might be one of the most effective ways to stop laughing in any situation.
Coping with Inappropriate Laughter
We get it, sometimes, you will try all the methods available to you, and they will all notoriously fail.
What should you do now?
Feeling guilty after laughing in unfitting situations is a normal thing to feel. However, it’s essential to take a step back and try to explain to everyone what happened.
Don’t be afraid to apologize, especially if you have offended someone with your laughter. Be direct and honest – it is the only right thing you can do.
We are all people, and nervous laughter has happened to all of us at one point or another. The chances are that most people will be able to understand you or at least appreciate the apology.
Either way, you will feel embarrassed about the situation. That comes as a given, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! In fact, the embarrassment you might be feeling after that laugh might be a trigger that can help you suppress it in the future!
Now, we cannot wait to hear your opinion on this matter:
Have you ever laughed in inappropriate situations? Better yet, did you manage to suppress your laughter?
We would love to hear your thoughts and past experiences about this subject. Drop them down in the comment section right away!