How to Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times

Three Methods:Determining when it is and isn't appropriate to laughCurbing your laughterCovering for an ill-taken laugh

Sometimes, you just can't help feeling the urge to laugh. If you allow yourself to laugh during serious moments, you may end up accidentally offending someone. While it might not be that easy to stifle a laugh, for most people it can be done.

Method 1
Determining when it is and isn't appropriate to laugh

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    Understand when it is inappropriate to laugh. They say that "laughter is the best medicine," but if the occasion is a serious one, others may not appreciate your laughter. If you go into a situation knowing that it's not laughable, it'll help you maintain a more serious demeanor. Typical times when it's not okay to laugh include:
    • At a funeral or during the exchange of vows at a wedding
    • A crash, injury or death scene
    • At jokes that demean people
    • When layoffs are notified around the office.
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    Check to see whether or not others are laughing, or at least smiling a lot. If they aren't, then remind yourself not to laugh unless they do. Or, if you see someone else laughing inappropriately (and everyone else giving that person dirty looks) then get away from them as quickly as possible, because inopportune laughter can be infectious.

Method 2
Curbing your laughter

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    If you feel the urge to laugh or say something completely irrelevant, excuse yourself immediately, if possible. Feel free to excuse yourself to the restroom and try to stifle your laugh.
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    Think before you laugh. If someone says "My mother just died," your reaction may be to laugh. Not to make fun of the person or act like you do not care about their loss, but the sudden change of subject to something sad is awkward for you, so you feel like laughing or getting out of the conversation. Although you may not notice it, something triggers you to do so. Think first, then react. Listen closely to what the person says. Imagine immediately if you were in their situation. What would you do? Would you want someone laughing at you if your mother died? Listening to the person, then putting yourself in their place will help you realize that it's not something unimportant and funny.
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    Think of something sad and depressing. If you need inspiration, the daily news is usually full of unfortunate events that will suffice to calm you down. Think about something that makes you want to cry. Although this can be unpleasant, it usually takes care of the uncontrollable urge to laugh. If sadness doesn't work, fear is also extremely effective. Think of a scene from a horror movie you just saw or a car accident. This is physically proven to work because the adrenaline (the fear hormone) released from your brain when you have these thoughts will block out the endorphins (the happiness or laughing hormone). It may take some practice to convince yourself enough of the fear, but once you have mastered it, it's very effective.
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    Try pinching yourself or causing some other strong physical sensation, such as biting your inner cheek or your tongue (don't bite too hard!). Bite each side of your mouth together, so that the edge of your lips aren't rising up to make you smile or laugh. Hold your breath when you are about to laugh. This can act as a distraction, helping you beat the urge to laugh out loud. If you still squeeze out a smile which other people tend to notice, press your lips together so it doesn't look like you're smiling. Sometimes when you hold your breath though, it just squeezes the laugh out even louder or you laugh at yourself, so be cautious.
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    Use your breathing to control the laughter. Try exhaling as much of the air as possible from your lungs. This removal of the air will not allow the laugh to continue and make it stop. This usually works best when combined with the coughing technique mentioned above. A combination of techniques is often the best!
    • Close your mouth and breathe heavily through your nose, as if you are laughing, just without opening your mouth. It can be covered up as a cold or something of that nature.
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    Focus on your mouth to ease the laughter.
    • Open your mouth wide and let the laughter out silently without smiling; this may look odd but it works.
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    • Push your tongue against the top of your mouth, and at the same time pushing your mouth shut slightly.
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    • Exercise your jaw muscles to relieve any tension and wear out the muscles.
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    Bite yourself. Do it gently, of course! Here are some biting techniques that may work for you:
    • Try biting down on your lower lip. Then, laugh all you want without opening your mouth. People will think you are crying and trying to hold it back. Try scrunching up your face, too. But, after you are done, don't just stop. Inhale a few times as if you are hyperventilating.
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    • Bite your tongue and pull your cheeks back or, if you are at a funeral or something serious, hold your hands up to your face, and smile and laugh as much as you want but, try to make the laughing sound like you're crying.
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    • Bite the inside of your cheeks.
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    Distract yourself. Try a method for thinking about something else, or self calming. Some approaches that may help include:
    • Count backwards from 10 to 1. If this doesn't work, try again. Even forward counting can help.
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    • Do a multiplication table in your head. This is guaranteed to work, but it may require some practice. In case if you never noticed, when we hear a joke or see something funny, we keep recreating the joke/scene in our minds over and over, and that's why we keep laughing. So the best way to stop laughing is to get the joke out of your head. Doing some mental calculation will, undoubtedly, require all your attention. Just try doing a multiplication, reading a book or thinking about anything else at the same time, you'll see it's impossible. However, if you're trying to hold laughter in a school play or something of that sort, where you still have to think about what to do next, you're going to have to learn not to look down or look distant while you're doing the math, and, also, to start doing the calculations again as soon as you feel like laughing, but without stopping what you're doing.
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    • Try to remember something, anything. Try to remember the names of all your friends and relatives, for instance, or trying to list all the songs of your favorite music album. Whatever uses your brain capacity and takes your attention away from the joke will help.
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    • Use reverse psychology on yourself. By telling yourself something like, "This is funny! Laugh some more!", you end up finding that whatever you were laughing at, is not so funny anymore.
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    • Sing a song to yourself and concentrate on the lyrics.
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Method 3
Covering for an ill-taken laugh

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    Disguise a smile or laugh with a coughing fit. If a grin or chuckle slips through, quickly cover it up by putting your hand over your mouth and coughing. Move away from the crowd, even if it means stepping out of the room or going to the restrooms. If they see you are coughing, they will understand.
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    Force yourself to turn your laugh into a cry if the occasion is something sad such as a funeral. Some people sound like they are laughing before they cry.
    • If it gets really bad, hold your nose and cover your mouth with that hand. Then people can't see your grin, and you can laugh as hard as you wish inside yourself. You may start shaking, but that's okay, it can be covered as crying. Try not to let any sound out, but if you do ease up by accident, it sounds much like a sneeze or a strange snort.
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    Pretend to pick your teeth. Open your mouth wide and pretend to pick away at something stuck. Not only does it totally hide your smile, you also clean your teeth at the same time! Be careful though because the face made is funny enough to make others start laughing when they see what you're up to.
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    Laugh in a moral way. If your friend just got insulted and the insult is funny, then you know you will have to laugh. What is found most effective is to turn it into a pity laugh. You laugh but without fully smiling, then look to the ground and either mutter under your breath or tut noticeably, then start to shake your head. This works really well!
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    Practice the cover-ups with a friend or close family member. Ask them to say things that may cause you to laugh. If you work at it, you can master not laughing and be serious at the right times, yet funny at the right times, as well!


  • Don't feel guilty for wanting to laugh. Human emotions are very complex. For example, some people even have the urge to laugh at funerals. This is not necessarily because they are mean, callous people. On the contrary, some people deal with loss and grief in unusual ways.
  • Pinch your nose so you have to breath through your mouth, and you will stop laughing.
  • If your laughter is detected, simply apologize honestly. Explain that you know your laughter is inappropriate, you don't understand why you are having trouble controlling it, and you do not mean to cause any offense.
  • Try physically pulling the corners of your mouth down into a frown. There's a connection between your expression and your feelings - alter one and you can alter the other. Conversely, if you're feeling depressed, glum or sad, force your mouth to grin - bite a pencil if nothing else works - and you will feel better.
  • Stare at something in the room and focus on your breathing. Don't look at anyone else who is laughing or what made you laugh in the first place, because then you will start to laugh again.
  • Bite your bottom lip or your jacket and try to relax your mind. Keep distracted by thinking of something sad and telling yourself you are really mean if you start laughing.
  • Another good idea, but maybe last resort is if you can think of a really embarrassing situation that makes you feel bad and horrible, think of this, and your mind will be taken off the humorous joke.
  • Think of something bad or embarrassing that happened to you and other people laughed at you. That way you know how it feels. It can help you now or in the future, if this happens again.
  • Start hearing a random tune of a song in your head and concentrate on the lyrics, or think of something sad.
  • Breathe slowly in and out.
  • Breathe out and hold the breath out of your lungs until you stop laughing. This will not only stop your laughter quickly, but also silence the giggles you give out until you do stop.
  • If someone else is laughing and makes you laugh just turn away and try to focus on something else.
  • Flex most of your muscles without moving, this will expel your laughter in a different form.
  • Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense. What makes inappropriate laughter difficult to control is the out-of-control aspect of it. By choosing to laugh, you can control it and choose to stop it.
  • Try breathing out of your nose very fast.
  • If sitting down, bury your head in your lap and attempt to gain control of your laughter. Once you have gained control, sit up promptly with a dead straight face and look as if nothing has happened. Bite your lips to suppress feeling of excitement. Talk to the salesmen, for they have help. People who were looking at you will now wonder if you were laughing at all. Continue this process, just make sure no one ever sees you're actually laughing. Also, If you are sitting then cuff your hands over your mouth and laugh quietly.
  • Try to stare at on point in the room and don't take your eyes of that position.
  • Developing a sudden feeling of superiority or a condescending attitude in your mind can help you temporarily stop laughing.
  • Occasionally, drinking something before it gets really bad can help you to stop your laughter. However, this can backfire if you still laugh causing the drink to spurt everywhere.
  • Just laugh! What's the worst that can happen?
  • Take long and deep breaths only through your nose. Concentrate on not opening your mouth.
  • If the urge proves particularly difficult to beat, you may have to pull out the heavy ammunition, so to speak. Think about the feeling you would get if something very bad happened to a good friend or a loved one. This can be difficult, but it will stop almost any urge to laugh. As soon as the urge is gone, you can let the unpleasant thoughts go.
  • If you see someone else laughing, think that they are laughing at you. It doesn't feel very good to get embarrassed. Think that your mom just said something that was very embarrassing, and everyone is now laughing at you. You should feel sad or angry.
  • Look somewhere else and try to think of something sad.


  • Although holding your breath (as mentioned above) can help in some situations, it will literally make you burst out laughing (very loudly) and you won't be able to cover it up if you don't manage not to laugh at all. Holding your breath is a double-edged sword and you should keep that in mind.
  • Laughing at other people (particularly strangers) can make them quite angry. If you feel the urge to laugh at someone who is trying to be serious with you, use any or all of the techniques above to avoid laughing. The pain you save may be your own (especially if you laugh at someone you don't know well). Most people are able to deal with being laughed at, but some are very sensitive about it.
  • If you are unable to stop laughing (or crying) uncontrollably at inappropriate times, a neurological disorder, caused by injury or illness in the brain, may be the cause. Millions of people suffer from this embarrassing problem, which can have serious social consequences. Pseudobulbar affect can sometimes be treated with medication. See a neurologist.
  • Do not bite down on your lip, tongue, or cheek too hard. It may cause damage.

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