How to use improv in your relationships

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My friend, Christie, suggested I write a blog about using improv in your relationships. Though I am an expert in improv and not in relationships, I thought, hey, why not? Here’s what I have learned in more than 25 years of teaching and performing improvisation.

1. Bring a sense of play in all your relationships.
Play is the thing that connects you to other people. It’s the thing that people want to be around, since it the thing that is lacking in most of our lives. I have friend who I call on the phone we go into character as two old WASPy guys named James and Rutherford. Over the years we have discovered details about the characters. We can stay on the phone for hours, cracking each other up. Why? Because we are playing. A sense of play is an attractive quality that people want and want to be around.

2. Listen.
Listening is the greatest skill you can have in improv, and it’s an even better skill to use in your life. You not only want to listen to what someone is telling you, you want to acknowledge what the other person has said and incorporate it. Really listening in improvisation is no different than really listening in life. It is  building off the last thing that the person says. This creates spontaneity, and more importantly it makes the other person feel listened to and valued. It also builds rapport and trust, qualities that can help in any kind of relationship.

3. Make fun of yourself.
I have been fortunate enough to have worked with, interviewed and taught some of the best improvisers in the country, and I have found them on the whole to be very humble, self-deprecating people. Good improvisers have the ability to make fun of themselves, and when you can do that, people will find you endearing, real and lovable — not a bad quality if your are looking to continue to build relationships.

4. Say Yes And To Fun.
Fun is hard to say yes to. It’s friends calling at the last minute on Friday afternoon to see if you want to go to the beach, or going to a concert or taking dancing lessons or going out to sing karaoke. For some of us, just going out to dinner or a cup of coffee is terrifying. When you say yes, a lot of emotions will come up, especially fear. Just realize that is sign you are heading in the right direction. Del Close used to say “follow the fear” when you are improvising. When you scared before a scene, that’s usually when you do your best work. Use fear as your compass that you are right on course.

5. Don’t worry about the results.
In improv, you are not in the results business. When you are truly improvising, you never know where you going to end up, and life is no different. Actually, in improv if you are doing a scene and you think you know where you are going, you not improvising at all — you are trying to controlling the outcome and you’ll end up with crumbs when you could have had the whole cake. Any time you collaborate with someone, you will create something beyond what you could have imagined by yourself. I can not tell you how many great opportunities have happened in my life because I showed for one thing, didn’t worry about the results, and ended up getting something even bigger.

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