Nervous giggling during a big presentation? Awkward at best. Coughing back laughs while your friend sobs over their most recent breakup? Not earning you BFF of the year anytime soon. Snickering at a funeral? Okay, we’ve officially reached the realm of unacceptable.
Laughing at the wrong moment doesn’t make you the heartless monster that everyone around at that moment might think you are, but it’s still not really the energy you want to be putting out there.
Here are a few quick tips to remember next time the giggle monster has you by the throat.
- Pinch yourself, or cause some other kind of sharp discomfort that won’t actually hurt you. You’ll yank your mind away from the urge to laugh without being too obvious to everyone else in the room.
- Count down from 100, sing a song in your head, or go through the mental motions of cooking your favorite dish. Again, the idea is distraction, so if you’re focus is somewhere that doesn’t make you anxious and isn’t objectively hilarious, you’ll be safe from the inappropriate impulses.
- Play I spy with yourself. Look around the room and take notice of every object you encounter, giving your brain something immediate to focus on. If you’re in a setting where you ought to be paying a little more attention or have a reason to retain the information you’re hearing, try some distraction that still lets you process what you’re hearing.
- Hold your breath. Willfully withholding your breathing makes it harder for any laughter to get out. Obviously you’ll want to breathe before you turn into a blueberry, but sometimes all your body needs is a quick-stop reminder to turn down the giggle machine.
- Clench your jaw or otherwise engage your ‘laugh’ muscles, a.k.a. any body parts involved in the act of laughing from your face to your gut. If tensing your abdominals isn’t quite doing the trick, sneak a discreet hand up over your mouth to at least conceal any unwelcome smiles.
- If a snort does manage to escape, quickly cover up with old faithful: the hard cough. Don’t make a scene of the conference room or anything, but with a gentle cough cough (or the more difficult-to-execute fake sneeze), many in the room will forgive you for a momentary bodily malfunction.
- Look away! If you haven’t picked up on it yet, staring straight at the laugh trigger is probably going to trigger a laugh. Look anywhere but at the object giving you the giggles, as long as it doesn’t mean turning to face the wrong way in the elevator or any other action that would have someone nearby judging you more than they probably would have had you just let out the laugh.
- When all else fails (and circumstances permit), just leave! The more extreme version of ‘look away’ involves completely removing yourself from the triggering situation so that you’re able to cope in a private place, or just let it all out. (Cautionary disclaimer: Keep in mind that public restrooms are never ever private.)