- “If you can make somebody smile, you’ve had a good day.”
- “See written on the forehead of everyone you meet, ‘Make me feel important.'”
Those are fondly remembered maxims of Marquette Professor Father John Naus in his 2013 obituary. All these years later, they are still worth following. Father Naus, who was well-known for using the last class of his courses to teach students how to make balloon animals, was often described as a clown priest – not just because he loved clowns, but because he used humor to convey benevolence.
Positive psychology is a relatively new field that has begun to offer “empirical data that show that humor is a serious tool that creates connection between people, enhances charisma of communicators, engages attention . . . [and] leverages people’s willingness to shift attitudes and behaviors . . .” That’s a mighty accomplishment for a five-letter word. And you can be an instigator of all that just by helping people smile!
When we build a connection through humor, we also activate the second maxim of making them feel important, i.e., valued. When we value others, we act more benevolently toward them. And when we begin with that open attitude, we are all not only more cooperative, but more creative in coming up with solutions for conflicts and challenges.
The article quoted notes that Johnny Mercer unwittingly summed up positive psychology when he sang, “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative…” Father Naus, on the other hand, seemed to be singing the lyrics from songwriters Adolph Green, Betty Comden, and Jule Styne:
Make someone happy,
Make just one someone happy,
And you will be happy, too.