Ever start a speech with a sudden faceplant? If so, you’ve wobbled into the world of improv!
Improv requires acting on the spot—without any scripts. Improv also teaches teamwork, risk-taking, inner-critic blocking, and desire-awareness says Kate Goodman in her book, Improvisation for the Spirit: Live a More Creative, Spontaneous, and Courageous Life Using the Tools of Improv Comedy.
You can see the life skills learned from improv she lays out in her book in bold below.
First, improv beholds the golden rule for teamwork: Never say no!
Why? “No!” fails to draw up goodwill, warm fuzzies, and helping hands. Plus, “no”s stop stories midsentence.
Kate says, “In improv, it is a cardinal sin to ‘negate.’ Negation is when you deny someone’s idea . . . First of all, it will be a power play over the other actor, which is really not fun for the others and, over time, makes people not want to hang out with you . . . Second . . . if you outright say no to an idea, the scene comes to a screeching halt . . . It makes you clam up” (p. 39 or 633).
Yes, improv trains you to not tear down, but build up others’ ideas: “Instead of negating, we ‘affirm and add.’ It’s called the ‘Yes, and …’ Rule. . . . It shows you care about the other actors’ ideas . . . All of us want our ideas heard” (p. 40 of 633).
A naysayer, my old boss, spewed “No”s. If you said, “Yes,” he said, “No.” And vice versa. If you agreed, he’d switch his view. His staff had higher turnover than nightfall in an asylum. He’d bomb improv.
Second, “improv teaches you to take risks”
(Introduction, 20 or 633). Kate says, “The point of spontaneity is that you are not censoring yourself. We often fear that if we don’t censor ourselves, we’ll say something stupid and be embarrassed by it, and everyone will think we’re dorky or worse. But if we do censor ourselves, we’ll never get to the best solutions” (p. 50 of 633).
On stage or in life, when your jokes get met with, “Oh, shut up” and rolling eyes—don’t let the backlash stick. Similarly, in boxing, when you get cracked in the face, keep jabbing.
Similarly, third, improv helps you resist inner-critics.
My boyfriend treats me with unconditional love. No critic from him. The more time I spend with him, the more carefree life feels.
On the flipside, inner critics lead to depression. I read a Pinterest pin that said, “Some people wish they had your bad days.” A decade ago, I’d have given anything to have lived my worst days this year. Despite happier times today, my self-critic roars. My best advice? Ignore critics when you flub; gag them when you sparkle.
Fourth, improv fine-tunes your wants and desires.
In improv—and in life—you “must know what your character wants . . . to help create a story that moves forward in an interesting way” (Introduction, 23 of 633). As for my life, my wants seem blurry, ever-changing. I desire health, love—a career. Outside of that, I need desire tune-ups.
A life lesson I learned? Discover your desires through the Myers Briggs personality test. Then size up suitable career paths; plan your optimal life.
And don’t enroll in comp sci when it ranks worst on Myers Briggs.
In other words, don’t wing it in geek squads. Wing it on stage.