Improv is the “Yoga of Communication Skills.” Improv helps us stretch and grow. Oddly enough, we “improv” all day long with the quick exchange beside the bag boy at Safeway to more solid Improv skills like answering your wife when she asks, “Does this make me look fat?” Improv in the household or on stage holds countless benefits.
If “all the world’s a stage and we are merely players,” here’s how the following noteworthy benefits will provide boosts to your stage – wherever your stage may be.
Helps the brain. As we age, the brain and memory grow in importance. With Improv, it is essential to remember what you said, where you are, and who you are. Memory is enhanced.
One of the most important parts of the brain, the amygdala, is recalibrated. From the usual “flight or fight” response, the brain becomes attuned to view a challenge as a choice. The brain adapts to the unknown. The fear muscle becomes a fun muscle.
Using Improv, I actually seek amusement in sticky situations and make more friends along the way. Life goes easier when I stretch my mind and look for the humor.
Example: While on Zoom the other night, talking about the importance of timeliness, I caught myself rambling. Wonderful to hear the audience laugh along with my sheepish acknowledgement, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Got the listeners to nod and smile. Got me off the stage.
Example: How to break into a conversation? How does one launch in with seeming grace and ease? For this introvert, always a challenge.
Improv requires active listening along with strong focus to the scene. At a party or gathering, when you hear an opening in the dialogue as you would on stage, try interjecting with: “Yes, and that reminds me…” Use a memory or situation that “serves the scene.” In this case, “the scene” is the people talking in front of you. They are the scene.
If the topic is travel, even if you don’t have a car, you could interject with the places you’d like to visit. “Yes, Greece is on my bucket list,” which it is.
With Improv, you bring a brick. I bring a brick. Together we construct a cathedral. Each person has his/her part in the creation of something stupendous!
Allows us to make mistakes. Allowing ourselves to make mistakes, to share them, even to laugh at them, brings big healing all the way around. If people make mistakes in Improv, they raise their arms and loudly proclaim, “I MADE A MISTAKE!” The whole class applauds.
When someone comes late to class, they sing the “Why I’m Late” song. On the spur of the moment, making up a song as to why a person is late brings laughter and smiles for everyone, including the latecomer. “I am late because I’m a flake,” in sing-song fashion is truth, mirth, and music simultaneously. Right before our very eyes, mistakes become gifts. Additionally, singing this type of song stops the tardiness.
Builds community. Out of 12 improv students, 6 turned out to be neighbors. Expand your network of friends and enjoy an uptick for invitations to block parties, plays, and events. Get in shape with a newfound hiking buddy to meet on Friday afternoons. Improv classes have found their way into major corporations because of their strong team-building value.
Makes your partner look good. The practice of making your partner look good on stage makes offstage partnership even better. Keeps complacency at bay and your partner loves looking good in your eyes too!
Contains the youth of children. Children are natural improvisers. They see a boat in every leaf. Magic in every rock. Bring home some exercises from an Improv class and you supply entertainment for the whole family. You may have heard it said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” Improv keeps you young with every giggle and chuckle.
Example: The latest exercise for my family is to name countries, one after another, in alphabetical order. Did you know there is no country with a name starting with “X”? The things you learn with Improv!
Improves Self-Esteem. An Improv class is one of the steeper slopes in public speaking. The thrill of plunging through the perceived fires of Improv to come out on the other side laughing does wonders for self-esteem.
Greater Connectivity. Exercising your authentic self on stage provides the flexibility to do more off stage. As you serve each scene as they arise in daily life, you become more connected and acquire more adventures. Those in your company will feel comfortable enough to follow your example. Authenticity attracts people. Creativity keeps them there. Improv combines both for an irresistible combination.
Why Improv? Rebuilds the brain. Increases flexibility in thinking with increased laughter and outlook on life. Mistakes evolve into gifts. Learn to serve the scene and each other. Builds community and team spirit. Improves partnership through appreciation. Rediscover the youth of children. Heightened healthy self-esteem. Connect more often and deeply. To fearlessly revel in the joy of discovering our own true selves.