The Secret to Kindness is Improv


When learning how to improvise for stage, you learn quickly that you MUST be kind in order to succeed. If you are not nice to your partners, then your scenes will fall apart. It's like the structure of improv was built to hold up only when and if people are being nice to one another. It is no surprise that some of the very basic building blocks of improvisation are: listening, agreement, putting others before yourself, empathy, trust and getting each other's back. Imagine running that checklist through your mind at work or in a social setting. That's a lot of things to think about in a meeting or at a party when you need to participate in real time. One of the most important skills that gets lost in improvisation is just the skill of being kind. Too often, improvisers learn the rules and then try to execute all of them at once on stage and in the moment. It can get a bit clogged, or as we like to say in improv, "you can get in your head."

On stage, in life and at work, we can simplify the rules. Let's break them down. Listening to others is inherently a nice thing to do. People like and respect those who are good and active listeners. Agreeing with someone will always deliver a smile. It's so nice to hear the sincere words, "I agree." A true sign of kindness is putting others before yourself. It does not go unnoticed, and it creates loyalty and strong ties. There is nothing sweeter than telling someone that you understand and that you validate their feelings. Trust means that someone thinks a lot of you and they are willing to take a risk on your behalf. I love it when someone says, "I got your back", it's like I just got a kudos for being me. It feels awesome.

So, all of the basic improv rules dissected are just one gigantic basket of kindness and gestures that are fueled by a true desire to be nice to others. It's great to keep practicing the basic rules of improv, and implementing them at every opportunity on stage or off, but it's kind of a relief to know that you can pretty much cover them all in one fell swoop, by simply being a good person. I guess you could say learning improv is almost like learning to be nicer more often, and there are no bad scenes on stage or in life when everyone is being nice.

Kristy West is the Founder of Atlanta based BraveSpace, where she teaches teams and people how to improvise at work!

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