National Emergency Medicine Assoc. (NEMA)



a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)

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Week: 603.6 Pt. 2

Guest: Terry Braverman, humorist, lecturer, author; When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!

Topic: Stress-busting humor for work, home

Host/Producer: Steve Girard

NEMA: Next we have a short story for you about the way humor and attitude can infect your daily life, and drive away pain, some ailments and stress...which can cause a lot of harm. I talked recently with Terry Braverman, who calls himself a ‘recovering stand-up comedian’, and makes a career out of speaking before Fortune 500 companies, clubs, church congregations...and anyone who can get something positive from his message of taking life a little less serious whenever you can. His book is called, When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up! . Today, we get a couple of stories that show how adding a touch of humor can be gentle, healing and productive. Terry, you told me how you brightened your Mom’s hospital stay by playing Dr. Jack Nicholson...

BRAVERMAN: And sometimes you just have situation that happens spontaneously instead of something that you intentionally create....bringing to mind a story of a pastor of a church who was in a very serious car accident, and ended up in the hospital. And for the first couple of days, he needed pain killing injections practically every hour on the hour. And by the second or third day, he’d pretty much been shot up every which way, and he woke up that morning in pain again. He rang the call light for the nurse, and started to ready himself for yet another shot. As he turned over...he was sleeping on his side, facing away from the door. So, he pulls his gown down to expose his buttocks, his left buttock...and he hears someone come into the room, and he points to a spot on his buttock, and he says, " I believe this is a pretty good spot here, nurse".... And then there’s this awkward silence. And as he turns his head, and looks for the nurse, it was not the nurse. It was the 22 year old secretary from his church office, and she was standing there, beet red. "I just wanted to come by on my way to work to see how you’re doing..." And the pastor tries to strike up conversation with her, but she says, "Well, I’ve got all this paperwork I need to take care of, so I’ll let you be...and we look forward to seeing you back at the office real soon...bye". And the situation struck him so hysterically funny, that he was totally out of control laughing. The nurse came in at that point, and couldn’t get the needle into him because he was laughing so hard. And she said, "Don’t worry sir, I’ll come back in about 15 minutes"...and she comes back in 15 minutes and asks what was so funny. He tries to explain it to her and then he completely loses it again, and breaks down in convulsive laughter. Well, this happened two or three times, and the net result was his pain went away from the release of the endorphins, which is of course, the body’s natural tranquilizer. The pastor did not need another pain killing shot for five hours. And he said it was the turning point in his recovery. Because when he saw that he actually had some power over his pain, that he could actually generate a physiological state based on my perspective...based on my attitude, I knew I was going to heal fast.

NEMA: Now, some of us use humor instinctively in stressful situations...even in the workplace...

BRAVERMAN: Well, the message is that humor is not only essential for dealing with stressful situations, but it is an important component of the bottom line...literally. Because there are humorous ways that you can create can create creativity within a corporate environment. Just to give a quick example: I did some work with a company back east, a savings and loan company, who had just hired some students out of college to be tellers. And they were just having a difficult time in dealing with rude and ornery customers, and the morale was really, really low. You could just feel it walking into a meeting there. And I said to them, "You’re not going to be able to change your customers’ attitudes in a flash, in most cases. The only thing we have to work with here is our own attitude, so let’s see if we can somehow change this situation from a difficult situation to a situation that’s actually fun and can have a positive result". So, at the end of the week, I got all the tellers together, and I had them go around the room and share their worst customer of the week story. And the one who was deemed to have the best ‘worst customer of the week’ story got an award or a prize. And I think that after the third or fourth week, the prize was a bottle of champagne, and that proved to be so popular, that we kept that one for a few weeks...and found that the tellers were getting very enthusiastic about this. They were able to start to laugh at their own stories as they told them more and more....because usually when you have that repetitiveness, when you tell something over and over, you start to see the humor in it. It’s almost inevitable that your perspective will start to shift. And what was happening was that they were getting enthusiastic, and they’d go out on the floor, and they’d look over people...and they’d see somebody who was obviously not having a good day. And it was almost as if they would say, "Hey, you look like you’re having a rotten day. Come on over here...we’ll help you out. The rude customers were getting so much attention, that they started to become more civil, because they were getting all this wonderful attention from the tellers, and they in turn would start telling their friends and associates about all this attention they’re getting in the bank. Well, the end result was the bank was experiencing an increase in their customer it was a win, win, win all the way around.

NEMA: Thanks to Terry Braverman, author of When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up! It’s a good book to have around. You can get information on ordering the book, or contacting Terry at this e-mail address:


SPOT: 15 years in the prevention of heart disease, stroke and trauma - The National Emergency Medicine Association. This show is just part of what NEMA does. We send out millions of pieces of prevention information to people around the country, give grants to organizations in research, public information and emergency services, and have been instrumental in the creation and expansion of the Chest Pain Emergency Room movement. To play a role, call 800-332-6362.

NEMA: Thanks for joining us for today’s program. If you have any comments or suggestions, contact this station. Or visit our home page at:

...for a look at transcripts of this or past programs, or to find out more about the National Emergency Medicine Association. I’m Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.


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Last modified: December 16, 2021