It's been some time since I've delved into the psycho-analysis aspect of study & writing for people; I've recently opened Plato back up and it started turning some gears in the ol' hot-air-balloon on my shoulders... and I also gotta credit @_Avant_ (read his shit here) for some of his writing because it has sparked an aspect of my writing I've been missing and it's proper to acknowledge a motivator.
What is Knowing When To Stop?
It's when you're about to push buttons that you know you shouldn't push, or you just pushed one, realized it was a horrible idea, and you need to insert the prevent-launch code ASAP.
Everyone has been in one of those situations where they're genuinely just having a good time, but the person(s) they're around just aren't as enthused. You want to joke to lighten the mood and clear the animosity in the atmosphere, or carry on with the conversation as you would any other... there are 3 ways this can go.
- You tell the joke/speak your piece, and immediately notice the reaction on the other person[s] face.
- You start to tell the joke/speak your piece but you're observant enough to see that the other person isn't in the mood for any sort of humor or discussion.
- You evaluate whether or not it's the proper setting for a joke/discussion before you can even begin and thus save everyone in the situation.
So which of the three is the best route?
You don't want to fall into the first category because you're possibly going too far and worsening the mood. Just think about yourself in the situation of the tense person in the room--you hate it as much as they will--and if you cross a line there, you're not just worsening the situation; you may be contributing to a volatile environment.
You don't want to fall into the third category either. That's right, you want to be in the second category and I'll explain why after I explain why not to fall into the third category. Most tense moments need levity. It's on you to evaluate whether levity is needed, but you can't forget about the other person in the room. You don't know how much someone can take at any time, so it's best not to just assume one way or the other.
Category two is exactly where you want to be. If you appear as though you're analyzing the situation, the person will realize this and they can react a number of ways, usually unfavorable to you. Telling a joke to provide levity is the same as telling a joke at any time, it has to be appropriate, it can't be too thought out, and it usually has to appear spontaneous. Continuing the discussion falls under the same tree; while just a discussion needs you to choose your words wisely, it's still more wise for you to contribute in a casual manner. Evaluating a person's emotion while you're saying whatever it is you feel is best to say, is the best route. If they appear at all uninterested or more emotional as you go on...
...know when to stop!
A person will appreciate you far more if you show the ability to read their emotions. It's not difficult, we're innately built to react to facial expressions and body language... all of us. It's on you to be smart in that situation like you're trying to be by carrying it on and know whether you should continue or not. Continuing when you shouldn't = volatile. Not even starting when you probably should = volatile.
I've been complimented a lot for my ability to assess a situation and know when something is appropriate or not. I'm not perfect, I fuck up and go too far or not far enough, but the majority of the time I'm right on with it. We're all emotional creatures though, so sometimes both of you are hostile and you're just going to contribute to a hostile environment because the other person is.
But when you're calm and collected and the other person isn't, it's on you to be wise and, to quote a great fake-English prince and philosopher from the movie Your Highness:
Handle your shit, Fabious!
Otherwise, you're liable to end up getting stabbed, or snapping yourself and doing the stabbing... then again, a murder charge might be exactly what some people need. But I don't endorse senseless murder, so if you gotta kill someone or be killed, make sure it makes sense!