I’ll be the first to admit that, like you and many others, I thought that the definition of improv was COMEDY. If you “did improv”, that meant you were doing something funny. However true that may be when you are performing an improv comedy show, it’s not completely true in it’s full definition. Everybody, every day of their life does improv. No one has a script for their day. So, you make it up as you go. Some people have an “agenda” or “routine” – but even that has a tendency to change in the blink of an eye. So you have to roll with the punches and make it up as you go.
Since we improvise life anyway, why not add a few guidelines into our daily routine that make performance improv successful? Here’s three (dare I say) “RULES” of improv that translate into life skills:
#1 – YES, AND… (aka: agree and contribute)
When an improv performer starts talking, they “act” as if what they are saying is “real“. It’s the character’s reality. If I say “welcome home, honey, dinner is on the table”, my scene partner should accept that we are in a relationship and agree to move the scene forward as a couple preparing to eat dinner. However, if my partner replies with “you’re not my spouse and we are at soccer practice” then there was obvious disconnect in the “reality” of this situation. When an improviser says “Yes, and…” they are accepting the IDEA created and agreeing to explore that idea by contributing to it with their own.
OPPORTUNITY IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF YES!
The movie “Yes Man” with Jim Carey proved that saying YES can open up your world to so many opportunities that would never be explored with your default setting of saying “NO“. Yes opens doors – No closes them.
Think of the emotions you felt as a child when you ask your parent for something and they said YES. Now think of what emotions you had when they said NO. (sorry if this stirs up mommy/daddy issues in some of you). You should get a glimpse of the power of YES (& the destruction of NO).
Say YES more!
Plus, the “and…” part is a GREAT reminder that YOU are a contributor. If you feel left out of conversations, or that a conversation comes to an awkward halt, remember to add “AND…” into your conversations. (great tip for getting teenagers to communicate)