Dealing with conflict usually involves a lot of negative emotions. So, it should come as no surprise that people often try to use humor to diffuse tension during a dispute.
New research shows that attachment styles influence how couples use humor during conflict. Dismissing individuals (also called avoidant individuals) are more likely to use inappropriate forms of humor. Dismissing individuals are less likely to use good-natured jokes; rather they are more likely to use humor to attack or belittle a partner. Putting a partner down during conflict makes perfect sense from an attachment perspective – dismissing individuals like to create distance in their close relationships. What better way to do that than to personally attack a partner?
Anxious individuals, by comparison, are more likely to use self-defeating humor. They use humor to put themselves down and engage in self-ridicule. This is a much less effective way to solve conflict, but it also makes sense from an attachment perspective. Anxious individuals have low self-esteem. By acting helpless they hope to play upon their partner’s sympathy.
The most interesting finding of the study was the fact that both anxious and dismissing individuals dislike when their partners use a sense of humor that matches their own.
Dismissing individuals like to dish out insults, but don’t like it when their partner’s return fire. Dismissing individuals have a negative view of others, so when partners attack back, it probably reinforces their view that people cannot be trusted.
Anxious individuals disliked when their partners use self-defeating humor. Because anxious individuals worry about being taken care of, it makes them even more anxious when they hear their partners express weakness.
The entire study can be found here.