Why Learning Improv is Great for Business
Reason number 7,497 why theater skills are business skills:
Improvisation or Improv: the act of speaking or performing without preparation; to make or create (something) by using whatever is available.*
While I would never advocate presenting or public speaking without preparation, anyone who has ever taken an improv class knows the phrase “…yes, and…” Anyone who has studied acting knows the wealth of “…yes, and…” Yet, in the “straight” business world, there is a decided lack of “…yes, and…”
One of the cardinal rules of improv is that you never say “no.” Saying “no” kills the scene and essentially stops the action. Instead, the actors must find a way to obtain their objects while never saying the word “no.” Don’t confuse this with the ubiquitous “…yes, but…” The use of the word “but” denies everything that came before it.
Case in point: “Wow that bright pink dress looks great on you but maybe we should look for something a little less flashy.”
Translation: The bright pink dress is hideous. The head-to-toe sequins make you look like a large disco ball.
This is how we speak. We constantly qualify and negate our real point by using words like “but” or “however.” By incorporating “…yes, and…” we can create a paradigm shift in our thinking and our communicating.
Case in point: “Yes Bob, that is an incredibly bright pink dress and you may want to wear it somewhere other than the company picnic.”
By using “…yes, and…” we move the conversation forward. It acknowledges what was previously stated, without belittling or negating. It is a springboard for further discourse. It allows thoughtful and imaginative conversation. It promotes collaboration, not divisiveness. Even when people don’t see eye-to-eye on a subject, the use of “…yes, and…” can act as a way to understanding. By saying “yes,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that we agree. It does mean that we acknowledge that something was said. It means that we have heard what was communicated and are taking it in and can move forward. Yes, and isn’t that the whole point?
LB Adams is the Owner of Pragmatic Dramatics based out of Charleston SC. Her company uses basic acting techniques and theatre games to train business professionals to communicate more effectively.
*Definition provided by Merriam-Webster.com
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