how to stay playful and flexible


Be playful.
Be playful.

The other day I was hanging out with two seven year-olds (my son and a friend of his). We stopped at a convenience store out on highway 531 to use the restroom. My son was coming out of the restroom, his friend was next in line, then me. Into the store and straight back to the restroom comes a big, bad-ass looking, Harley-riding dude. He looked tough. So, there I was with two kids and me in line. The biker had about 90 lbs on me and he was about 8 inches taller. I said to him, “The line goes from toughest to least tough. He was first (pointing to my 40 lb son), he is next (pointing to his friend), I’m after that, and you’re last.”

So, I’ve just told this biker that he was not as tough as a seven-year old. But I did it with a playful attitude. He laughed and we started talking. It turns out that highway 531 is one of the best motorcycle rides in the state. Nice guy.

Playfulness & Flexibility

The point is (it’s here somewhere, I swear), when you approach situations with an open or playful attitude and behavioral flexibility you can have a good experience. I’m not suggesting you taunt motorcycle gang members. Being a kid who since high-school has gotten himself out of tough situations with humor, I’m comfortable teasing people with a twinkle in my eye. I know if things go sour, I can dance fast enough to defuse the situation. Usually it’s fun.

If It’s Broke–Fix It!

I remember way back when, when I sold suits for JC Penney. Sometimes, when I would launch into a spiel about some selling point of a particular piece of clothing, I could see the potential customer wasn’t responding positively. I would stop, step to one side, point to where I had just been standing and say something like, “That’s probably the kind of crap you usually hear from salespeople. Now, what is it that’s important to you about a suit?” Oftentimes, I could get them back and help them better get what they want.

Playful. Flexible.

It’s useful with clients. It’s harder to do if you take yourself and the techniques you use too seriously. Dogma, rigid thinking and procedures are all enemies of flexible, spontaneous, effective, client-centered therapy.


Now that doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily be laughing our way through a traumatic regression session. It simply means don’t take yourself or your approach too seriously. And for goodness sake–don’t take me too seriously either.


About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. Keith,

    Dogma, rigid thinking and procedures are all enemies of flexible, spontaneous, effective, client-centered therapy.

    Very nice!!


  2. Thanks for that important reminder.

    When I visited my Chinese doctor/herbalist/acupuncturist the other day for a treatment to an injured tendon, he looked at my back and noticed some spider veins. He commented that it indicated my liver wasn’t functioning as well as it could. I asked if he had an herbal treatment for that and he said… “Happiness is good for the liver. Be playful.” So your message was very timely and appreciated.

  3. Thank you. I enjoyed your article and persepctive very much. In 1988 I was contracted to provide probation officer services for a rural district court in Upper MI. I had this after-thought of an ‘office’ in which to ask convicted drunk drivers about their drinking, called a ‘court screening.’ I learned the most from these guys, about having a sense of humor, helping them to find theirs while also conveying that I cared, and we could laugh, cry, to be open and accurate and get to the business of helping them be more effective in their lives. Everyone can laugh, it’s the fastest way to the heart. Be well. -Annette

  4. Dear Keith,
    Very well said! I liked your approach to the situation! Being witty and humorous does help a lot in diffusing a tense situation. I have tried it many times and beleive me it works and saves a lot of mental and physical energy.
    I could use humour all the time but the trouble is then people do not take you seriously.

  5. I, too, have always been the kind of guy who gets out of tough situations using humor and wit (translation…class clown). The trick is knowing when to stop. There is a fine line between humor and smart assidness (and I just made that word up…it’s mine!).
    What I tell my kids is simply this, “If you are the only one laughing, it was not funny, no matter how funny you think it was.”
    I really love your site and have really learned a lot about myself and my craft. Keep it up.

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