Exploring The Ways Different Types Of Humor Impact Personality

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated May 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Humor is a part of almost everyone's life. Humor can lighten the mood, help us express ourselves, and even introduce different perspectives. Knowing how people use different types of humor may help us better understand how we communicate and how to interact more effectively with others.

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The four types of humor and the personalities behind them

Humor may come in many forms, and how it is used may depend on the individual's personality. However, experts generally consider most humor to fall into one of four categories:

  • Self-defeating humor. Self-defeating humor is about making light of one's shortcomings and difficulties. It often involves poking fun at oneself, implying inadequacy or incompetence. People who use self-defeating humor may try to make themselves appear more socially acceptable, but it can sometimes have the opposite effect and cause people to distance themselves from them.
  • Self-enhancing humor. Self-enhancing humor is about laughing at life's misfortunes and celebrating small victories. People who use this type of humor are able to find laughter in even the most difficult situations, and they tend to be optimistic and resilient. They may also have high self-esteem, as they don't need to put other people down to make jokes.
  • Aggressive humor. Aggressive humor involves using sarcasm or teasing to put others down to gain a sense of superiority. This type of humor may often come off as hurtful and might lead to social isolation. People who use this type of humor may seek power and control, or they could be trying to cover up their insecurity.
  • Affiliative humor. Affiliative humor is about finding common ground with others and establishing meaningful connections. People who use this type of humor may have a strong desire to be liked and accepted by their peers. They tend to be more compassionate and understanding, as they don't need to rely on jokes at other people's expense for laughter.

Overall, understanding how different types of humor are used might help you better understand how your personality interacts with other people's personalities. It may also help you interact more effectively with those around you, allowing you to build stronger relationships based on mutual respect. Knowing how different types of humor reflect our personalities may provide valuable insight into how we might better relate to each other.


The benefits of understanding different types of humor

Psychologists have conducted a number of studies into the role humor plays in social interactions. One study found that the use of positive humor may correlate with “various domains of social competence” as well as emotional intelligence. Another study points to the connection between positive types of humor and satisfaction in romantic relationships, as well as negative types of humor and relationship dissatisfaction. Understanding the different types of humor may be beneficial in many ways, including: 

  • Improving communication between people of different personalities 
  • Providing an opportunity for people to learn how to express themselves in a variety of ways
  • Exposing people to different perspectives
  • Helping people become better listeners, an essential quality for any relationship 
  • Creating a more empathetic and compassionate society by helping people understand how others may react to certain forms of comedy and jest 
  • Building relationships
  • Finding common ground 
  • Connecting people 
  • Breaking down barriers
  • Fostering understanding 

Understanding different types of humor might be an invaluable asset in social situations, whether you are looking to make new friends or build stronger relationships with those around you.

The risks and responsibilities of using humor

Try to be mindful of the context in which comedy is used and the potential audience. Using certain types of humor might present risks, such as offending people or not connecting with the audience. Also, humor may sometimes be misconstrued as aggressive or insulting if not communicated respectfully. Understanding different types of humor might help avoid these misunderstandings and provide insight into how to approach a situation best.

There are ways humor may become problematic; try to be aware of how humor may be interpreted. Always pay attention to how your jokes are received and how they shape your interaction with others. Understanding how different types of humor may be used effectively might help create a more positive and enjoyable experience for everyone.

If you are unsure how to interpret other people’s reactions to your jokes, you may want to reach out for help. Mental health professionals can specialize in how words, humor, and tone of voice are perceived.

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Humor as a mask: Therapy can help

Humor is often used as a mask to hide how one feels. If you find yourself relying heavily on humor or believing you may be using humor to cover up how you feel, it might be beneficial to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide guidance on understanding how your humor affects you, how others might interpret it, and what might lie beneath the surface of your humor. 

BetterHelp's online therapy can be notably convenient. Therapy sessions can be conducted via phone calls, video chatting, live voice recording, and even texting. The platform is also fully personalized: you start by completing a questionnaire regarding what you're experiencing, what you'd like help with, the type of counseling you're looking for (individual, couple's, family, etc.), and so on. You are then matched with a licensed therapist and can chat with them via in-app messaging to determine if they're a good fit.

Counselor reviews

"Daniel is wonderful. I have tried in-person therapy before, and have never been successful. Daniel really gets to know who he is talking to, and how to best help them with what they are going through. He has a sense of humor that I really appreciate because that is how I communicate. My review here doesn't do him justice. I am thankful to have him as my counselor."

"Catherine truly listens to my concerns and asks questions to make me think why I react in situations. She helps me feel validated and is instilling baby steps to help me become more stronger in who I am. After two sessions I already feel lighter and feel like I can finally overcome my obstacles with her help! She understand my weird humor and accepts my quirks!"


Humor can be a helpful way to connect with people, and it is ideal to understand how different types of humor may be used effectively and how others might interpret it. Seek help if you feel your sense of humor is masking how you feel. Online therapy may be an excellent option for gaining insight into how to approach these situations most effectively.
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