The secret to family happiness: Include laughter in your culture

By Amy Zehnder

Ever wonder if there might be a secret sauce that, if poured on family members, would make them easier to get along with? Or maybe a specially formulated epoxy that could repair broken family relationships? Many families are searching for something akin to great-great-grandma's secret lasagna recipe—the one that had the ability to bring everyone together from near and far, even if only for one joyous evening.

Thousands of books and resources are available to help family members revive, repair and maintain family relationships. These materials are replete with tips on how to communicate better, resolve conflicts and make decisions as a family enterprise and an enterprising family. Yet there is one secret to family happiness that is rarely written about or discussed: laughter. Laughter is the secret ingredient for creating a positive family culture.

Laughter has a way of connecting one's heart, head and soul with others'. It is a social sport, for without an audience, it dies quickly. Although occasionally one will laugh at oneself, it is not the same as having someone with whom to share the joy of laughter. Laughter simply dies in isolation. Yet it's contagious when shared.

May/June 2016