This morning at work my boss was talking to one of my coworkers across the room. Me and the guy who sits next to me couldn’t really hear the story, we could only hear the ambiguous drone of my boss’ voice. He was telling another long-winded story, as he often does. A few seconds later, the coworker being assaulted with this drab tale laughed.
It was obviously not a genuine laugh. It was a laugh that said, “That’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back, jackass. Now get outta here and let me do some work.” At least, that’s what you heard if you listened close enough. It was…a courtesy laugh.
I hate courtesy laughs. It’s normally something you have to do in a socially awkward situation and it’s the only option you have available to you without appearing to be an ass.
When I’m at the receiving end of one of those idiotic stories I’m just not mean enough to stop whoever may be telling this pointless story and say, “Hey! I don’t care.” So I sit there miserably listen to a tale with slightly less intrigue than the plot of a porno movie. And then give a courtesy laugh.
Or sometimes when I’m in a place with a lot of ambient noise and someone is trying to tell me something and I don’t hear what they say, but they start laughing. It’s just much easier to laugh then ask that person to repeat whatever they said that probably wasn’t really funny to begin with. Then I walk away before the situation becomes even more awkward.
Urban Dictionary (reliable source, I know) defines a courtesy laugh as follows:
- When someone tells a really long story that really has no point to it at all and at the end you make a little chuckle, giggle, or laugh out of courtesy.
- When someone tells an absolutely terrible joke, and no one laughs, you give them a courtesy laugh. This should not be mocking and done very tastefully.
That actually sums it up quite nicely.
Yet another reason for the dreaded courtesy laugh.
I, like most of the people in my family, have a hard time controlling my facial expressions. Meaning that I may be laughing or agreeing with you, but my facial expression clearly says that what you said wasn’t funny or that you’re dead wrong. So when I have to give a courtesy laugh I’m always worried somebody’s going to see right through my guise and know that they’ve been given the old courtesy laugh and then I’ll really be fucked when I started getting interrogated about it.
I really wish I was a big enough dick that I wouldn’t feel obliged to give courtesy laughs, but if I were to just come out and say, “Hey, that joke sucked,” or, “Hey, nobody cares that your kid is a second degree black belt,” or, “You know, I didn’t hear what you said, but don’t bother repeating it cause I’m sure it wasn’t funny anyway,” but if I did I’d feel like shit afterwards. I feel bad treating people like that unless they deserve it, then I can rationalize it.
I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess.
The way it should be. If your joke sucked nobody should pretend otherwise.
Question: Do you do courtesy laughs? Or do you actually have the balls to speak the truth no matter the consequences?
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