Using humour to defuse tense situations

Yes, this often works.

But it can also backfire.

It depends.

First of all, never use sarcasm (which is supposedly England’s main form of humour).

In many tense situations, people want to be HEARD – listened to – and using humour in such a case can make people feel that you are are ridiculing them. Customers who complain about something do not want to hear humour. They want to be taken seriously. Let them talk.

In other situations, you actually have to redirect someone’s attention and get them to focus on you instead of on someone else and you do that by throwing their own aggressive attitude back at them.