Improv Rules... in your work and life.

It is better to learn late than never”

Publilius Syrus: Writer, Mime, Improviser (85 – 43BC)

The best gift my business partner has given me (and she’s an amazing gifter…ask anyone) was teaching me the rules of improv which she learned early in her acting career as a Second City performer.

I wish I had learned these rules earlier in life, but….refer to quote above.

There are many, and I’ll share my top 3 Improv rules that can change your work and life:

#1 – Yes, and…

When used together these may be the two greatest words in any language. “Yes, and….” means agreeing with someone’s idea and adding on to it. “Yes, and…” means “I hear you, I acknowledge your idea and let’s see where we can take it”. How much better is that than the “No, buts…” that are flung around so destructively in the workplace? In many places.

“No, but…” says “you are wrong and my idea is better”. End scene. There’s nowhere to go from there.

“Yes, and” is the magic ingredient in business meetings and personal relationships that breaks through inertia, spawns ideas and ensures all participants are validated and motivated.

Here’s a challenge for you: try “yes, anding” in every conversation you have today and see the difference it makes. Report back please.

#2 – Listen for gifts

Listening, I would argue, is the most imperative skill in communicating and sadly the most underused. More often people are listening to respond, rather than listening to learn. “That’s very interesting….now shut up so I can talk”. People everywhere are talking at each other and not with each other.

Listening is a must-have skill in improvisational acting. The actors are required to be completely present in the moment, listening for those magical words from their partners that can advance the scene. Imagine how much more productive conversations would be if everyone listened for gifts as well as improvisers.

Even in difficult conversations, if you adopt the mindset that by really listening you may find the solution – I promise, all of your conversations will be richer and produce greater connection.

#3 – Follow the fear

“What we fear of doing most, is usually what we most need to do”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I stared at my to-do list earlier today, this quote seemed apropos.

Confession time. Writing and posting blogs scares me. Will my ideas be accepted or...not? Putting yourself out there can be frightening. So, if you are reading this blog it means that I pushed past the fear and in doing so learned something in the process.

Improv teaches us that the best lessons and greatest growth come from the experiences that scare us. Think back to an experience in life that scared you….what did you learn? Now get out there and tackle the scariest thing on your do-to list.

Learning the rules of improv made me a better communicator, business partner, service provider, friend and family member.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving….thanks, Jack.

Sway Partners Inc. combines techniques from improv, theatre and television with real-world business experience to teach people to communicate with proficiency, passion and purpose.

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