Improv changed my life. It was the precursor that lead me to my voice classes. I have studied improv for a year and a half and I didn’t know I’d learn so much about myself and I didn’t anticipate that I’d love it like I do. There are many principles to improv that parallel principles to living fully. Here are a few tips on living your life like an improviser.
Be Clear & Direct
Communication is everything and necessary for any healthy, successful relationship. Part of being an effective communicator is eye contact. We tend to trust people who make direct eye contact versus those who do not. And when we make eye contact it helps create a deeper connection. If you are not communicating, communicating effectively or do not have the attention of the person you are communicating with your chances for conflict are increased since your message or lack of a message can be misunderstood.
When people talk to us, especially in an argument, we tend to think of what we want to say instead of listening fully to what is being said to us. To listen as an improviser means to listen intently to the full message that is being communicated, eliminating distraction and focusing on the person speaking. If we are truly hearing what people are saying, then we can not only hear their full message, but can hear the meaning behind the message and have a deeper response.
One of the most important rules of improv is to say yes. That means to accept an offer that a teammate puts on the table and take that idea forward. For example, if I said that the sky is purple, you would accept that idea and build on it. In life the idea of saying yes is needed in brainstorming sessions at work. Put all your ideas (simple, outrageous, expensive) on the table for consideration. Don’t shoot down an idea. When you shoot down an idea the person who gave the idea is less likely to suggest another idea and it can stop the creative flow for the team. Outside of a team setting saying yes in life, means saying yes to new experiences, which allows you to meet new people, try new things and grow in ways you may not be aware that you need. Some of my best experiences have been when I said yes to experience.
Trust (Don’t Think and Be in the Moment)
One of the hardest things to do in life is trust. The trust that I am referring to is not interpersonal trust, which is trust between you and another person. The trust that I am referring to is trust in life which some would call faith. Sometimes an offer is put on the table and it’s an improviser’s job to incorporate it in the scene. Many times we don’t know how to incorporate an idea since we are thinking on our toes and get nervous. Trusting in the process of improv or the process of life, we learn in time that an improv scene and life work out. Just because something doesn’t work out like we imagined, doesn’t mean that it didn’t work out. (It’s all based on perspective.) When you are in the moment of a scene or in the moment of an experience you are at your most authentic because you aren’t thinking, instead you are being. It’s your being that the world wants to see.
When you are thinking on your toes in a scene, you are bound to forget a made up name, place or imaginary object that a teammate establishes. As an improviser we learn that the golden moments aka when funny happens are in the moments when we make mistakes. While mistakes can be hard, in our lives, upon reflection we see it builds our character and offers the best life lessons.
Everything You Need is Right in Front of You
One of the common things that come up in class is stick with the first offer. However, no matter how bold we can be, improvisers get nervous and lose the trust needed in improv. When we lose trust we add more and more offers on the table, which complicates the scene. We often are reminded to trust the first offer and allow it to guide the scene. Only when we trust the offer it gives the offer a life that is needed to carry a scene. Rather then grabbing for things that are out of our reach, sometimes we need to realize that what is within us or within our reach is all we really need.