Using Humor in Questioning: Dos and Don'ts

Learn how to effectively incorporate humor into your questioning technique with these dos and don'ts. Keep it light yet informative!
Using Humor in Questioning: Dos and Don'ts


Questioning is a vital communication skill that is used in various settings, including education, business, and personal relationships. It is the process of asking questions to obtain information, clarify understanding, and effectively communicate. The ability to ask effective questions is essential in building trust, motivating people, and solving problems.

The importance of questioning cannot be overstated. It is a fundamental aspect of critical thinking and problem-solving. Effective questioning is the foundation of learning, as it promotes a deeper understanding of concepts, reinforces knowledge, and inspires curiosity.

Why use humor in questioning? Humor is a powerful tool that can break down barriers, facilitate communication, and make interactions more enjoyable. It can help to lighten the mood, reduce tension, and create a relaxed atmosphere that promotes learning and engagement. The use of humor in questioning can make the experience more memorable and enjoyable, allowing individuals to process information more effectively. However, it is important to use humor appropriately and effectively to avoid alienating or offending your audience.

The Dos of Using Humor in Questioning

When used correctly, humor can be an effective tool to engage your audience and make your questioning technique more effective. Here are some dos to keep in mind when using humor in questioning:

Understand Your Audience

Different types of humor appeal to different people. Understanding your audience and what they find funny is key to using humor effectively. A joke that lands with one group might fall flat with another, so make sure you know your audience well before incorporating humor into your questioning.

Use Appropriate Humor

What might be funny to one person might be offensive to another. Make sure the humor you use is appropriate for the situation and audience. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and stick to light, inoffensive humor.

Keep the Tone Light

Humor works best when it’s used to lighten the mood. Make sure your tone stays light and playful, even when discussing serious topics. A heavy-handed approach to humor can quickly turn off your audience and undermine your credibility.

Use Humor to Lighten the Mood

If things start to get tense or serious, using humor can be a great way to break the tension and lighten the mood. Just make sure that the humor is appropriate for the situation and doesn’t trivialize the topic at hand.

Use Examples to Make Your Point

Using examples that incorporate humor can be an effective way to make your point more memorable. When your audience attaches a funny story or joke to a particular concept, they’re more likely to remember and retain it.

Laugh With, Not At, Your Audience

Humor that’s directed at your audience can quickly backfire and make them feel defensive or insulted. Instead, try to find common ground with your audience and make them feel like you’re all in on the joke together.

Remember, the goal of using humor in questioning isn’t to be the class clown or entertain your audience. It’s to engage them and make your questioning technique more effective. By following these dos, you can use humor to achieve that goal without coming across as unprofessional or insensitive.

The Don’ts of Using Humor in Questioning

When using humor in questioning, it’s important to remember the line between appropriate and inappropriate humor. The following are some don’ts to keep in mind when incorporating humor into your questioning technique:

Don’t use offensive humor

It’s important to steer clear of any jokes or comments that can be considered offensive. Offensive humor can easily offend the person being questioned or anyone else who may be listening. It can also reflect poorly on your character and credibility.

Don’t be insensitive

Be aware of the feelings of the person being questioned. Avoid making insensitive jokes that can hurt their feelings or make them uncomfortable. Always consider their perspective before incorporating humor.

Don’t use humor to belittle someone

Avoid using humor to insult or belittle someone. Humor should never be used as a means of aggression or to showcase dominance over the person being questioned. This can quickly escalate the situation and derail the conversation.

Don’t use humor to avoid answering a difficult question

Humor should never be used as an escape route from answering a difficult or complicated question. It’s important to remain focused on the task at hand, and if you don’t have an answer, you should be honest about it.

Don’t overuse humor

While humor can be an effective tool in questioning, it’s important not to overuse it. Overuse of humor can lead to the conversation becoming unproductive or detract from the seriousness of the situation. Humor should be used strategically and sparingly to help lighten the mood and keep the conversation flowing.

Overall, it’s important to remember the power of humor and how it can impact the questioning process. By following these don’ts, you can ensure that your use of humor remains appropriate and effective.

Examples of Effective Use of Humor in Questioning

Example 1: Using Humor to Lighten the Mood

A customer service representative is handling a complaint from a customer who received a damaged product. The representative could say, “Well, I guess that’s one way to get a discount,” and follow up with a sincere apology and a resolution to the issue. This will not only lighten the mood but also show empathy towards the customer’s frustration.

Example 2: Using Humor to Make Your Point

During a presentation on customer service, a speaker could say, “If you want to keep your customers happy, treat them like they’re always right, even when they’re clearly not.” This humorous approach would quickly grab the audience’s attention and make the point that customer satisfaction should always be a priority.

Example 3: Using Humor to Connect with Your Audience

A teacher is giving a lecture on a dry topic like spelling rules. To ease the boredom, they could ask, “Why do we park in a driveway but drive in a parkway? I mean, who comes up with these rules?” This humorous question will connect with the audience and keep them interested in what else the teacher has to say.

Example 4: Using Humor to Keep the Conversation Going

During a job interview, if an interviewer is stuck in a certain question he could say, “Hmmm, I’m not sure if that question made sense. Let me try that again in English.” This will break the tension, and may lead to the interviewee getting more comfortable and giving a better answer.

Example 5: Using Humor to Show Vulnerability

A manager giving feedback to an employee on their performance could say, “I have no idea how to do your job, but I know that “I don’t know” is not a plan.” This opens up an honest conversation while also showing vulnerability and humor.

Humor can be a useful tool for communication, but it should always be used with care. The examples mentioned above show how humor can be used effectively to connect with others, lighten the mood, and make your point without being offensive or insensitive. Keep these dos and don’ts in mind, and don’t hesitate to try a little humor in questioning to effectively communicate with your audience.


Incorporating humor into questioning can be an effective technique to engage and lighten the mood of your audience. However, it is important to keep in mind the dos and don’ts that we have discussed.

Remember to understand your audience and use appropriate humor that is not offensive or insensitive. Keep the tone light and use humor to make a point or to lighten the mood. Laugh with your audience and not at them.

Avoid using humor to belittle someone or to avoid answering a difficult question. Also, be careful not to overuse humor.

Incorporating humor into questioning, when done effectively, can be a great way to engage and connect with your audience. Just remember to use it wisely and appropriately.

As always, it’s important to practice and refine your questioning technique, and don’t be afraid to experiment with humor to see what works best for you and your audience.

In the words of journal editor and author Harold Ross, “Humor is the affectionate communication of insight.” Let us use humor to communicate more effectively and positively with those around us.