I’ll share today an unexpected and curious way to tell how much intimacy you have with someone and an effective way to increase it.
By intimacy, I mean any kind of intimacy, which could be in a professional, friendly, romantic, or any other type of relationship.
Intimacy increases trust and decreases friction between people so it’s valuable to have. Knowing how much you have tells you how closely you can interact. Being able to create it can deepen and strengthen relationships and make them more productive.
Intimacy has its risks too, as does today’s tool. Used effectively, it will create intimacy and its benefits. Used ineffectively, it can ruin relationships. Getting close to someone always risks inviting pain or other problems. If you’re easily offended or have little sense of humor, today’s post might not work for you.
What is this tool, this double-edged sword?
It may sound crazy, but telling off-color jokes creates intimacy.
You’ve told such jokes and laughed at them. Think of the people you share such jokes with. or rather how the reaction varies depending on the intimacy between you and the person you’re sharing them with.
However offensive some people may consider some jokes, don’t you generally enjoy sharing them with people close to you and find yourself wary of those not close to you sharing them? Don’t you know that when you and your close friends tell jokes that others could consider offensive, you and your close friends know you’re really just knocking down the stereotypes, not reinforcing them?
When an off-color joke makes you laugh, don’t you want to share them with people closest to you? And not with people you don’t have intimacy with?
Don’t such jokes, when told to large and therefore not intimate groups, risk seeming more offensive? They work when you’re close with people. Writing this post for the world to read opens me to criticism from people who don’t know me. They might say I support hurting people, supporting stereotypes, or something like that. That’s a risk I’m taking. But I care about you, dear reader, and feel compelled to share my observations on something that affects and can improve your relationships (see the intimacy?).
How do you use this to your advantage in social and leadership situations? First, remember the risks of telling such jokes. If you don’t know how to tell them well or can’t sense how someone will respond, use them at your own risk. Know your limits and try to sense other people’s.
Next, if you want to know how close someone is, tell a slightly off-color joke and see how they respond. If they respond well, you might, over time, tell increasingly off-color jokes. Note how if you increase them, you probably will create an understanding that you aren’t creating offensiveness or supporting stereotypes or whatever the source of the off-colorness, but are actually helping decrease offensiveness, increasing understanding, and decreasing stereotypes or whatever source of the off-colorness.
Finally, if you want to increase your intimacy with someone, start to test your relationship’s boundaries on such jokes. You have to listen and sense their reaction closely to do it effectively. And choose your jokes wisely. If you do, I predict you’ll create an ability to create intimacy with people faster and more deeply than before — while decreasing stereotypes and increasing understanding.
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