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On-Site Staff / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

How Improv Makes Me Better At My Job

How Improv Makes Me Better At My Job

If you are a child of the 90’s, like me, you may remember the British version and first iteration of “Whose Line Is It Anyway” with Clive Anderson. I had a huge crush on Ryan Stiles when I was in 5th and 6th grade. I used to rush home to watch episodes of the show. I loved it! The participants were so quick, they were so witty, and they always made each other look good! Three skills that I now try to use in my everyday life.

I have also done research on Improv (even took classes) and one of my favorite books is called Yes, And: Lessons from The Second City. You should check it out. For now, here are my top takeaways:

Say “Yes, And”

After watching dozens of episodes of the show, I realized that the reason the participants were so quick was because they participated in a principle called “Yes, And…” meaning whatever someone said, the other participant went along with it. 

In our work, by saying these two simple words, we are showing the other person that we are listening to them, that we care about their perspective, and that we are open to making their request happen. We may not agree and may inevitably say no, but saying “yes, and” gives us time to really think about how we can work together better. When I find myself writing ‘but’ in an email, I switch it out for “yes, and” and always get a better response from the recipient.

There are no mistakes, just opportunities

Just like in a Bob Ross painting, there are no such things as mistakes, just happy accidents. In improv, the participants are quick and witty. And their wittiness comes from their understanding that there are no mistakes. Their response may not be hilarious but it will add dimension to the scene and that is what is important. This is also true in the work we do. We work to make a difference and sometimes we choose an activity or a project that falls flat. It is our job to learn from that flub and turn it into a piece of art. Use your wit to figure out the next step and you will be good to go.

Build an Ensemble

As much as I love Ryan Stiles (still)he wasn’t the star of the show. The show only worked because there were other people on the stage committed to the same thing – creating a good scene. And they did this by making each other look good. We should use this principle in our work too, we should find ways to work together and lift each other up in positive ways. No project was ever created by a single person, we all get help from others. It is important to make a more conscious effort to work as an ensemble and not just a solo act.

And, above all LAUGH!

This is not exactly a rule of improv but it is usually the end result. Laughter is the best medicine. Laughter changes your mood. And laughter is contagious. I recently became a Certified Laughter Yoga instructor and it has made my life better in so many ways. Did you know that children can laugh up to 300-400 times a day, but for adults, this has dropped to 15 times a day? Why has that happened? I will tell you why…it’s because we started saying no, we lost our connection to what makes us witty, and we care too much about making mistakes than about the impact we are making in the world.

For breakfast this morning, I ate a homemade whole wheat veggie burrito stuffed with sauteed mushrooms, peppers, onions, and Beyond Meat Crumbles.YUM!

Author: @larissaboost7

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