Improv makes you a confident communicator – here’s how?
I have learnt so much from improv - in many ways it has been a life safer. I have learnt that you don't die if you step into a room full of strangers, and you can actually enjoy conversations if you take the focus of being 'right' or looking 'right' and just start being curious. I am passionate about the life and business skills you can enhance by doing improv - and networking!
I will start with an earth shattering announcement.
You are not a robot - you need to get used to being embarrassed - it is inevitable in life! You need to get used to responding to the unexpected - going with the flow... I repeat - you are not a robot.
Now down to business. How to strengthen all aspects of your human communication skills by dabbling in a bit of improv work - read on and let me explain how it works.
How does improv make you a better communicator?
Without getting bogged down in defining Improvisation - I will just say this:
Using the techniques of improv will make you a better communicator because you will be -
- encouraged to stop over-thinking
- have more trust in yourself
- connect with those around you
- be present in the moment.
I will add to this by saying that being playful is good for you - and improv is playful.
“We don’t quit playing because we grow older; we grow older because we quit playing.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
Back to basics - good communicators need these skills.
All true - but these are just words. To learn we need to do.
You only get to be good at these things when you put them into action - and you don’t get to be good instantly - why would you? It takes practice, trial and error and experiencing the light bulb moments - that’s the journey you need to be on.
Improv techniques and mindset provide you with a great tool to take on that journey.
Is improv for everyone?
Improv is for everyone - not just performers and extroverts - please read on therefore if you are an introverted non-performer type. ( Here's a bit of self-disclosure - I have a big dollop of introvert in me !)
Read on to get enthused about finding an improv group ( a non- performing type.) I make no excuses for using this blog post to make you aware of just such an opportunity - my own event!
I want to raise your awareness of improv and how it helps you in more ways than you might realise! As Robert Frost said - I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” (Yes I did just compare myself to the renowned poet Robert Frost).
Let me relate improv to your everyday communication challenges by giving examples of 2 common communication traps and suggesting how improv (or at lease adopting the mindset of improv ) will help you develop communication skills that keep you out of those traps.
If you want to combine some networking. nibbles and improv - and you can get to Bournemouth - come to Explory Story
Trap 1. Using 'buzzwords' and jargon
You know your thing - but there are plenty of people who don't know your thing!
You have adopted certain ways of describing things that others in your office or industry understand instinctively - but people outside that bubble are baffled by.
Baffled listeners become alienated non-listeners very quickly.
How does practising improv techniques stop you falling into this trap?
- It encourages you to mess about with language and expectations.
- You have to give focused attention to the other person in improv games because you are not sure what’s coming next! You have to listen and watch and constantly connect.
- You think up creative ways to convey your message.
- Improv is collaborative - you work together - you help the other person understand what you are trying to communicate - you have to.
- In improv you will often be communicating something without using any words at all.
- You can’t cling on to buzzwords or trot out techie words that nobody else understands - by doing so you create a block - and improv is all about ‘flow’ not ‘block’.
Trap 2 - Perfectionism and self-doubt
You don't willingly put yourself into embarrassing situations - you probably put a fair bit of effort into avoiding embarrassment.
To avoid being embarrassed you hold back from speaking up, expressing opinion or being a bit ‘out of the norm’. (I have to reference 'The Emperor's New Clothes' here!)
You might spend so long over-thinking about how to respond to someone that you become verbally 'constipated'!
You might trot out a ‘standard’ response that you know is tried and tested and therefore will be accepted without a big fuss!
You might end up sounding like an over-briefed politician on Question Time (not good - not engaging).
This is where going to an improv session works wonders! It is a safe place to stretch your comfort zone - and everyone is in it together.
I used to be painfully shy and ridiculously self-conscious - so for me doing improv was a lifesaver - I got used to that vulnerable sensation of just ‘going for it’ - and when I didn’t die from it - the fear faded.
You cannot be a relaxed, engaging communicator if you are crippled by over-perfectionism and self-consciousness - that is a fact.
You need to trust yourself. Improv when practised regularly will help you with that trust.
“You get more used to the idea that something from your unconscious is going to come up and it’s going to be okay no matter what it is.” Alan Alda
If you feel inspired to find out more about improv - check these out:
Article in Forbes by Kate Harrison on how improv improves your business skills
This is a TED talk by Charles Limb - beautifully 'nerdy'! It has some fascinating stuff about what happens in our brain when we improvise as opposed to memorise.
This a a great high energy talk by Dave Morris - it points out some of the rules of improv - one of them is RELAX AND HAVE FUN by the way!