Here is a guest post I wrote for the aptly-named site, Work Awesome. I hope you enjoy it!
Last fall, after putting off going to my first Toastmaster’s meeting for the umpteenth time, I decided to enroll in an improv comedy class.
I had been watching Whose Line is it Anyway? and thought to myself, “Why can’t I think off the cuff and engage in witty banter like those guys on the show?”
So, on the first day of class, I girded up my loins and forced myself to actually attend.
I knew I wouldn’t become the next Will Ferrell or Tina Fey, but I figured it would help me to round out my public speaking skills.
What I didn’t anticipate, however, was that it would provide so many valuable lessons that could be applied to a professional environment.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that anyone who wants to become more effective in the workplace could benefit from taking a whirl at improv.
Here are the top six lessons from improv that can help advance your career.
1. Observe and Listen
This is one of the foundational rules of improv. In essence, to be able to react effectively to your scene partners, you have to be completely attentive to their words and actions.
So, as opposed to thinking about what you are going to say next or wondering what interesting tidbit your vibrating smartphone is tempting you to read, your task is to give the other person your full attention.
The benefits of this approach in interactions with colleagues are pretty obvious. By taking this lesson into the workplace and being intentional about staying present with your co-workers, they will feel more understood and valued.
In turn, this will encourage them to return the favor by being more attentive to you. Further, by staying present you will be able to gather more information, including concrete data like specific facts and more subtle information like nonverbal reactions and group dynamics.