Yoga for Social Skills.
I did not coin the phrase. It was delivered by Kelly Leonard, Executive Vice President of The Second City. He said it in an interactive keynote speech at a conference I am attending. His bio says he has overseen productions featuring Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler, Jason Sudeikis, Keegan Michael Kay and more. And… as impressed as I was with who he has worked with, I was more impressed by what he had to say.
Over the years I have seen a lot of ‘Improv for Business’ type courses offered by a lot of organizations. Over the years I have always wanted to sign up for one. I mean… who doesn’t want to think faster on their feet and be funny!?
But… to be perfectly honest, I had a hard time justifying it. I had a hard time seeing a connection. Kelly Leonard and his colleague Robyn Scott put it out there.
“Improv is Yoga for social skills.”
“Improv is practice being unpracticed.”
And… they explained the science behind some of it.
Apparently, scientists have scanned the brains of people actively engaged in improv and… when we are improvising, activity is reduced in the part of the brain that regulates self-judgment and self-consciousness.
When our self-critical tendencies are reduced, we listen better. We engage more. We are less fearful of taking risks. We are more creative.
Who doesn’t want to think faster on their feet, be funny AND be a better listener who is more engaged, is more creative and isn’t afraid to take a necessary risk!?
THAT isn’t just for personal growth.
THAT has a business application.
They threw out some improv basics. I had heard them before.
My daughter has a degree in theatre and communication and often brought home improv as dinner games. Seriously. If you see me in a restaurant and eavesdrop on a conversation I am having with my son and daughter, you would likely be very confused. We play a lot of Garth. (Example: If Kelly Leonard was an un-bathed zoo animal, he would be Smelly Leopard. If Robyn Scott was a toilet paper thief, she would still be Robbin’ Scott. etc.)
We have conversations where every sentence has to start with the last word said by the other person. (Example: “I don’t know whether to choose the free-range duck burger or the chicken sandwich.” “Sand, which is used as filler in some foods, is not good to eat.” “Eat vegetables and meat and things that are good for you. Where did you here sand is used as filler?” “Filler article in The Onion. I’m sure it was a joke but it could be true even if it was printed in The Onion.” “Onion on the duck burger sounds lovely!”)
We have conversations where the first word of the first sentence in the conversation must start with the letter A. The second person to add to the conversation must start their sentence with the letter B and so on. (Example: “A Dodge SRT Challenger would be a really fun toy.” “Better than that would be a Dodge SRT Challenger Hellcat! They have 707 HP!” “Camaros look cooler.” “Dodge is a classic.” “Even though the insurance is astronomical, I want one, too!” “For sure!” etc.)
Anyway…. I have heard about and used the concept of “Yes… and” and other improv concepts / exercises. But I have not heard them explained like this and I have not used them as anything other than dinner entertainment.
Kelly Leonard and Robyn Scott explained that the concept of “Yes… and” is not just a way to keep a scene running. It is a way to say yes to a person – even if you ultimately have to say no to an idea.
When someone comes to you with an idea and you say no, you are holding up a giant stop sign. It feels frustrating – and personal – for the person who shared the idea. There is no interconnectivity in this type of exchange, no collaboration. The person with the idea has to do all the work and, after a while of having a stop sign shoved in their face, they are going to stop coming to you with ideas.
When someone comes to you with an idea and you respond with “Yes… but” it is a little passive aggressive. It seems like they are saying yes but then….. they smack you with a stop sign and hit you with a revision. It is frustrating, belittling and confusing.
When someone comes to you with an idea and you say “yes… and” they feel heard. You are acknowledging them and their idea and you are hitting the tennis ball back. You are offering a reflection, another idea, a concern but… you are interacting. You are saying yes to the person and interacting with the idea.
I love this. ❤
I also love the other sound bites – that are so much more than sound bites – that they offered.
“If it can’t be used for evil, it is not really a superpower.”
“Fight like you are right but listen like you are wrong.”
“A Team is NOT only as good as its weakest member. It is only as good as its ability to compensate for its weakest member.”
“We teach others how to treat us but you need to play the scene you are in – NOT the scene you want to be in.”
And of course, the best advice of all….
If you don’t take anything else home with you today, take these three things. 1. Listen 2. Say “Yes… and” and 3. Treat every person in your group as a member of your ensemble.
By the way, I was so impressed, I ordered Kelly Leonard’s book, “Yes… and: Lessons from the Second City.”