Three Improv Rules to Improve Communication Skills

Bucket list item:  Take an improv class.  Check.

In between a variety of games and activities in my very first improv class this weekend, I rediscovered the joy of being silly and of being surrounded by laughter and the support of others also stretching their comfort levels.

The entire evening was an absolute blast.  I am now hooked on improv and can hardly wait to sign up for next month’s session. In addition to rediscovering my silly side, I also realized that some of the rules of improv (not that there are many) are great tools to apply outside of the classroom.

Rule #1: Always say “YES”. 

In order for improv to work, everyone must agree to play. They must say ‘yes’ to putting themselves in a situation that may feel uncomfortable. They must say “yes” to whatever suggestions their partner or audience suggests, regardless of how off-the-wall or silly the suggestion is.

That means agreeing that yes, this scenario does take place in a garbage dump. That means that a finger is a gun, a character can be both a man and a dog. Improv means being open to and willing to explore opportunities.

How effectively would we communicate if we entered into each interaction with an open mind and fully present?  How many more ideas and suggestions would be discussed and shared instead of being shut down with a ‘no’ because they weren’t different enough or were too different?

Rule #2:  Say “Yes, And”.

In improv, the ‘yes’ is only the first step. The second step is contributing to the scenario.  If one actor says “It is hot as Hades in here” and the other one says “yes, it is”, where will the scenario go?  Without a new idea, the scenario shuts down.  Imagine where the scenario could go if the second actor wiped sweat off the first actor’s forehead and said “yes and what it’s doing to that old pig carcass over there is awful!”  Now, the first actor has something else to play off.

How much more effective would meetings and discussions be if all participants agreed to fully participate by providing ideas, suggestions and alternate paths to explore?

Rule #3: There are no mistakes. 

In the world of improv, misunderstandings or mistakes are nothing more than an opportunity to take the scenario in a whole new direction.  That means if one actor misinterprets a word, gesture or action, the other actor doesn’t stop to correct, berate or redirect.  Instead, he adapts and works with the new direction.

Can you imagine how much more genial business and personal relationships would be if mistakes were not viewed as mistakes, but instead as opportunities?

As you continue through the week, have fun, find some time to be silly and always look for an opportunity to say “Yes, and”.

Happy Wednesday!


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