There are at least three good reasons to have fun when coaching. First, sharing a good laugh together is a great way to build rapport. It reminds us that we are human, that life has its ups and downs, and that togetherness is one of the things that helps us get through the rough parts and that makes the celebrations that much sweeter.
Second, sharing a good laugh makes us feel good and consequently increases our energy level. It puts us into a more creative and collaborative mood.
Finally, coaching takes us to some awkward or difficult moments. Humor can reduce the tension and help us keep our minds open to possibilities that we may not have previously considered.
A word of caution. Not everyone will appreciate every facet of your sense of humor. I once got the following feedback in a retrospective after a coaching workshop: “I think some folks may have interpreted your sarcasm as mocking what they said.” Especially when a person is feeling vulnerable they may misinterpret your attempt at humor as making light of them rather than the situation.
It is always best to be yourself. If you tend to use humor a lot, that’s great! Just be mindful of who you are interacting with at any given moment. If they don’t seem to fully appreciate your sense of humor, just dial it back temporarily. While your sense of humor is part of who you are, we regularly adapt our behavior to the given situation all the time. Think about how you might act differently at work, at home, with close friends, or at a wedding to name a few examples. Coaching involves interacting with many different people with many different personalities. Make sure to take each person’s uniqueness into account when you are coaching them.
One more point regarding humor: it doesn’t have to come just from you! To the extent that you are comfortable, let folks know that it is totally appropriate to have some fun during coaching. If your coachee makes you laugh, point out how it contributed to the session (assuming it did) and encourage them to be themselves around you.