Sometimes one person thinks that something is funny but another person thinks the exact same thing is totally unacceptable and offensive. Because of this, it is very important that you are careful about what you say and the type of joke you might want to tell other people.
Have you ever been in a group of people when someone tells a joke that not everyone laughs about? It can be very uncomfortable, especially if you look at the face of the person or people who are not laughing. They might not say anything in response but their body language leaves little doubt that they did not appreciate the joke. Following are some things are you, as a business person, are likely best to avoid joking about:
1. Ethnicity - This is one of the most sensitive areas as most jokes are very degrading and disrespectful of the group that is being talked about. In fact, there are a number of slang words that are used to describe ethnic groups in a derogatory manner. Do not find yourself caught using these words or even stereotyping about ethnic groups.
2. Religion - Everyone is entitled to have beliefs and these should not be put down or treated in any disrespectful manner. Culture and religion are usually closely connected. There are therefore times that when you attack either, the person will be offended.
3. Sex or sexual activities - Making fun of a person's gender or using crude language to describe sexual acts can be extremely uncouth. Most people are very private about their sex lives and may laugh about something you say thinking that this is polite but, at the same time, be uncomfortable.
4. Disabilities - It doesn't matter whether it is a physical or mental disability, the fact that you are laughing about it shows that you do not recognize the uniqueness of humans or know how to show respect for others.
I decided a long time ago that it is best not to tell any jokes because they usually are told at the expense of another person. I also try to change the subject if I am with people who start telling jokes - before something is said that is inappropriate. There are many, many things that can be said regarding ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual activities or disabilities that will be negative about other people. It is therefore important that, as a business person, you stay away from hurting others and also risking your reputation.
When I was in university, there was a professor who was so intelligent but he swore in almost every sentence. At the end of the course I was alone with him for a few minutes and asked if I could give him a little advice. He agreed and I said "You are an amazing person who is so successful but you swear so much that it cheapens your act!" He seemed surprised by this but thanked me for my opinion. Sometimes people who are very professional in some areas cheapen their act by telling jokes.