Raise Your Fun Intelligence: The New Leadership Competency
Unleash the fun version of yourself. Learn the tools to bring people joy. Broaden your leadership style with new skills.
There I am, facilitating fun at a highly professional blockchain conference. The other emcees, you know what they did?
They played the script. They did what was expected of them.
Me? Hell no. I play by a different rulebook.
The Fun Intelligence Rulebook.
The easy life is to wait for fun to happen. The fulfilling life is to make it happen by your own volition.
There was a time when I avoided being fun. I would say to myself. I’m not fun. I’m not extroverted. I’m not energetic. That’s just not me.
This was a time when people did not want to be around me. A time when I left people feeling more disempowered and stressed than I found them. A time when I did not know how to dance.
Since that time, I started journaling. After every social encounter, after every gathering, after every party I host… I reflect on my human connections. This article contains insights from 1634 days of journaling about facilitating and igniting meaningful human connections.
The culmination of all my lessons is this framework: FQ — Fun Intelligence. I offer a free introductory tutorial about it here. I am writing this to give you actionable steps to raise your FQ. Because I believe fun is a force multiplier.
Why does fun matter?
- Fun induces positive emotions, which reduce stress, promote social bonding, and increase creativity.
- People care about and remember how you make them feel. The strength of your memories is determined by the intensity of emotion experienced.
- Fun and play are known to prevent depression and loneliness — two silent killers in modern society.
- No one else is prioritizing their FQ as much as IQ and EQ. Cultivating your FQ makes you a trendsetter.
You’re motivated now. To reinforce your motivation, comment on this article. What do you want to accomplish by being more fun?
Commit to it. Make it public.
Fun As A Trait
Being fun is about embodying fun. It’s not a strategic thing. It’s not contrived. It’s really there. It is a state of being, not a mask. Embodying fun is about having fun regardless of what’s going on around you. It’s about decoupling your fun from the physical and social environment. It’s about having fun within you.
Most social events suck. So you know what I do? By embodying fun, I level up the entire party. I am the first one to dance. I get people to form circles and play games. I start cheers. I have so much fun within me, that no crappy party can stop me.
Embodying fun is an inner game. It’s about calming your mind and nervous system, so that you’re able to take social risks. In my FQ framework, I call this internal safety. You feel safe to take social risks.
People notice when you are stressed, uncomfortable, or nervous. And let me tell you from experience, you’re going to be incapable of having fun if you’re anxious or triggered. Fun comes out when you are fully relaxed and not giving a damn.
How can you access this state of mind?
- Generate internal safety.
- Activate your prosocial state.
3 mindset shifts for generating internal safety: S.O.R.
Seek the thrill.
You seek the thrill by celebrating the times you try new things, regardless of whether they work out or not. It’s possible to actually program a reward in your brain after you make an attempt at being fun. And so, seeking the thrill is about discovering the emotional rewards of being fun when no one else is celebrating you.
The goal with this first step is to become emotionally motivated to take social risks. This is the method to do this.
Overcome social conditioning.
Realize that the social and developmental rewards of being fun often far exceed the risks. People will forget about your screw-ups, and those who don’t forget are not the people you want in your life.
There are two big shifts here: 1. To be fun, you need a peer group that supports your non-conformity — people who don’t constantly remind you about your failures but empower you to move forward. 2. To be fun, you must have the courage to be disliked. This courage can be trained by paying more mental attention to your social progress, instead of your faults or setbacks.
Remember, to be disliked by the right people is a great thing. Unhappy, social conformists often don’t like me. This means that I am being authentic. If you want to make 95% of the people who encounter you feel empowered and energized, accept that there will be 5% who will feel triggered.
And you bet, the mind will make that 5% feel like it’s 95%. This is why we shouldn’t take what the mind says at face value.
Being messy is my life philosophy. Being messy is about adopting a growth mindset. When we are training our FQ, we must accept that we’re going to make mistakes — we’re doing something that very few people have the courage to do!
When you make mistakes facilitating fun, when people find you to be too much, when someone thinks you intruded, or when someone just thinks you’re crazy for being so expressive — you must look at these events as evidence for your progress.
Encounters with social rejection, ostracization, and awkwardness are evidence for your progress.
And you must have a peer group that celebrates your progress. Failing forward. Leaps forward. Tumbles forward.
To relinquish perfectionism, I recommend my students upgrade their peer network and apply cognitive re-appraisal to their social errors.
There you have it. Three mindset shifts for cultivating internal safety. This is the precondition for being fun. It is the inner game. But once you have it, what should you actually do to be more fun? To be contagiously fun?
Good thing this guy right here has messed up in way more social situations than anyone you know 😆
The How Of Being Fun
I want us to focus on one-on-one social interactions, not group dynamics. In my FQ framework, I go into group dynamics as the final step for spreading fun — it’s called Activating Prosocial Energy. As we will explore for one-on-one dynamics, there’s a massive toolkit we can use for group dynamics as well.
One thing to remember…
True experts don’t rely on expertise; they rely on the effectiveness of their tools.
Before we explore the tools, we need to consider what happens before any social interactions begin! Remember what I said above? The second part of embodying fun is about prosocial state activation. This means taking our nervous system from stressed to relaxed/joyful.
When we are in a prosocial state, all our social encounters become easier. We are more likely to enter the social flow state where we are effortlessly the life of the party.
The key shift here is to pause before social activities and to ask yourself: Is my nervous system fit for this right now? If yes, proceed and spread your good energy with everyone! If no, get into a prosocial state or rest!
My preferred tools for accessing a prosocial state include: Sleep, kindness meditation, movement and heart rate elevation, and listening to joy-inducing music.
One caveat: your prosocial state will crumble quickly if you are malnourished, sleep-deprived, or chronically stressed. Your general health matters. It impacts your ability to be fun and spread it. To maintain the capacity for high-fidelity socialization, I recommend all my students practice meditation, avoid sugar and grains, and move every hour.
You’ve upgraded your mindset, you’ve activated your prosocial state. Now it’s time to practice being fun with others! Over the years, I have collected many habits for human connection — these habits nourish me and take me into a deeper prosocial state. These habits are not secrets. The secret is making it consistent by learning how habits work.
Every time one of these habits is activated, guess what happens.
Your human connections amuse and nourish you. This enters you into a positive feedback loop of prosocial state activation.
The more of these habits you establish, the more often you will exist in a prosocial state. There are two types of behaviors I want you to adopt. We’ll first explore the foundations of human connection, and then we will discover what fun people do differently.
Essential Human Connection Behaviors
This is about accessing deeper emotional contact with the person in front of us. Fun people are really good at this. They amplify joy and make people feel seen and heard.
I speak expressively.
When I say things, I express feelings through my full body. I let my body get excited, serious, or sad. People notice and feel my emotion. This is called embodiment. The first thing you can do to get here is practicing ‘noticing how your body feels.’ When you’re connecting with someone, pay attention to the emotional landscape within your body.
Fun people wave their hands, change their tonality, and vary their facial expression a lot. It makes people feel safe to do the same.
I am the first one to be curious.
When I am socializing one-to-one, I ask personal and creative questions. I’m the type of person who walks up to strangers and asks them about their dreams…
I am the first one to express excitement.
When someone shares something personal that is positive, I express excitement and intrigue. Having a low threshold for excitement sparks it in others. It’s contagious. People also love it when you get excited about what they say.
I laugh at myself.
When someone is closed off or self-conscious, I share idiotic personal stories or practice self-deprecation. I am not afraid to talk about my faults.. The ability to laugh at oneself is a symptom of a lot of self-work.
I share personal stories.
When one of my funny life experiences pops into my head during a conversation, I relate back to the speaker by sharing the story. Having an array of stories you love to tell can help you relate more deeply with others and entertain them.
A big theme for me right now in my fun mastery is practicing more storytelling in my conversations.
I encourage others to share personal stories.
When I am socializing one-to-one, I ask questions that encourage storytelling. Example: What was a peak experience you had recently? Bonus if the question evokes positive stories.
My mantra for this habit is “Find what people love to talk about.”
I reflect joy back.
When someone expresses joy or excitement, I pay close attention to it, empathize with it, and reflect it back with my body language. This is called emotional amplification. It’s like a ping pong ball rebounding back and forth. When you feel the emotion with the other, the ping pong ball gains more speed.
The best way to feel another’s emotion is to pay closer attention to their eyes, tone, and face.
I practice active constructive responding.
When someone shares something positive with me, I ask them to describe the situation in detail. I am curious about positive stories and situations in people’s lives. Example: ‘You got the job?! What did they say on the phone call?’ Details and imagery are interesting to me! The opposite of this is described below.
Essential Fun Intelligence Behaviors
You’ve established your essential human connection habits. You pay closer attention to the people you encounter and you validate their emotions. The next stage is playfulness. To be playful, master the basics.
I am the first to dance, sing, or laugh.
When music is playing, I wiggle and shake my body. I don’t try to look good like real dancers — their purpose is different. My purpose in moving my body is to make myself and others smile. There’s a difference between dancing to look good, versus dancing to be fun. There’s nothing rehearsed when you’re dancing to be fun. Move your body. Wildly. The same applies to singing.
I impersonate and improvise.
I look for opportunities to play pretend. Playing pretend is about embodying an imaginary character and inviting people to interact with your imaginary character. It’s the next level up from speaking expressively.
Example: Often, I pretend to be a legitimate party scientist. I will ask people a questionnaire, judge their dance moves, check their pulse, make them stick out their tongue and say ‘ahhhhh.’ And then I prescribe them an intervention that will increase their joy. It’s hilarious.
To learn to improvise, practice is essential. You must practice using your imagination. When our mood is positive, we become much more imaginative.
I invite people to play pretend.
I ask questions that invite people into an imaginary world and persona. A great example: When I am on the dancefloor, I love to ask people when they are performing their Jazzercise class. Be aware that some people will be blatantly confused by your invitation to play — most people do not often receive such an invitation. There have been times where people just thought I was insane.
Here are some other examples.
- We met at the _____, right?
- Can I get your autograph? You’re the famous _____, right?
- What planet did you come from?
- So when are you teaching us to ____?
I dress vibrantly.
This one is underrated! When I attend a social event, I dress colorfully and invitingly. Your appearance can give permission for others to be less self-conscious and serious! Whenever I network, this is why I wear a purple blazer. I have since started to wear a lab coat with the title The Party Scientist on the back.
I ask fun, quirky questions.
When someone is tense or formal, I ask fun questions. These invite people to express themselves and get personal. The best ones inspire the recipient to tell a positive personal story. Building rapport with the person for a few minutes is necessary before asking one of these questions.
- What is the weirdest thing about you?
- If you could have a Ph.D. in anything, what would it be?
- When is the last time you really let loose?
- When is the last time you did something rebellious?
- Do you have any hilarious childhood memories?
I give positive reinforcement to risk-takers.
When someone takes an interpersonal risk (that is, they initiate fun or do something vulnerable), I positively reinforce their expression. I leverage applauding, high-fiving, touching, thanking, or verbal encouragement. Or I just straight-up join them in their fun. Be the first follower.
Example: If someone starts to initiate a toast or cheer, I join in!
I give non-attributive compliments.
Even if someone is not taking a risk or breaking a norm, I find ways to compliment their appearance, vibe, or character. It’s a great conversation starter, and it makes both the giver and receiver feel closer.
I use ‘I statements’ instead of ‘you statements.’ I find something specific I like about them. I don’t just mention an attribute: “You’re smart.” I mention a specific action they had taken, what it says about their character, and how it has impacted me.
- Action — I love how courageous you are in sharing your adversities.
- Impact — It makes me feel like I can open up and won’t be judged.
- Character — It suggests you do a lot of work on your communication to be so authentic and confident, is that right?
I respond with Yes…And!
When someone makes a suggestion or tells a story, I do not disagree or find faults in it. I build off of it with excitement. Being disagreeable and starting sentences with ‘I disagree,’ is a fun killer. If you’re always resisting what others are putting forward, people are not going to express themselves around you. Instead, be a yes-and-er.
I explicitly call people in.
When I see a wallflower, screen-gazer or lone wolf, I send them an explicit invitation to join the fun. I either call or gesture them over. And then I introduce myself and ask them to introduce themselves. So many of the great moments of my life have been the result of inviting new people into my group. But not just inviting them in, inviting their expression in!
It’s one thing to invite people to join a group or activity, it’s another to invite them to speak or contribute. You can actively include someone by inviting them to answer a prompt or participate in a game.
PS: Have any to add here? Please comment with your additions!
How To Make It Consistent
It’s one thing to know how to be fun and to memorize the theory. It’s something different to ingrain these habits into your style of relating. To do this, I use triggers — one element of the habit loop. When a trigger appears, I know it’s time to use one of my fun habits.
Example: If someone is tense, anxious, and closed-off, it triggers me to ask a lighthearted question or share a personal funny story. This often makes people feel safe to be more goofy and authentic around me.
Triggers come in many forms: When (event)… If (condition)… After (event)… During (activity)… Triggers remind you to relate differently and apply your fun habits. Then, the neurocircuits become more and more strong. Behavior change is reflected by the changing strength of neurocircuits. So if you really want to become fun, as a way of being, then you need the habits.
If you don’t develop the habits, you won’t change your behavior or mindset in the long-run.
Remember. Raising your FQ is a practice. It’s a journey. Sometimes, you won’t be fun. People won’t like you. This is inevitable on the journey of choosing to break through social norms and spread the fun.
It’s also inevitable that it will feel mechanical and inauthentic at the beginning. But, as you sensitize yourself to others’ emotions and evoke more and more joy in your interactions, this will fade.
Here’s a summary of my journey.
In 2017, I led my first public bike rave.
In 2018, someone hired me for the first time as a hypeman.
In 2019, LUSH Cosmetics flew me into their event.
In 2020, I facilitated fun from the main stage of an international festival.
In 2021, I built the FQ Framework.
In 2022, I started feeling my fun come out as a natural part of myself.
It took me a long time to attain a high FQ. It’s going to take you a long time too. But I’m here to help.
To be more fun, pay more attention to the expressions, excitements, and joys of others. Encourage them.
Could you do me a 10 second favor before you leave? If you’re feeling thankful, could you like or comment this article? What wisdom do you have to share with other readers? We’d love to hear your additions.
If you liked this article, you’ll like my blog about relational intelligence and health. Sign up to get access to my best free resources on the science of human connection.
ps — I help innovative conference, event, & party planners unite and exhilarate their audience by applying the science of human connection. Do you know any who’d want to consult the professional party crasher?
Thanks for spreading healthier human connections 🧠
— Jacques The Party Scientist, BSc. Pharmacology
The Biosocial Hacking Movement is about helping humans facilitate healthier human connections in their lives, teams, and communities — so that we can together combat the rise of loneliness and depression in the age of technology.