Using Improv to Improve Communication

Posted 2 DecemberIdeas, Tips, Trends

The December 2016/January 2017 issue of Fast Company magazine features an article about how improv techniques can help you communicate better. It showcases how cast members from Chicago’s Second City work with employers to engage employees in improv exercises geared toward strengthening their communication skills.

GLC managing editor Kathleen Hagan experienced something similar when she attended an “Improv to Innovate” session presented by YGS at the 2016 Association Media & Publishing annual meeting.

The session Hagan attended, along with the Fast Company article, highlighted what a difference it can make if one is willing to approach conversations with a “Yes, and…” attitude—instead of a “No” or a “Yes, but…” response.

In the session, participants paired off and were asked to have a conversation about where they should go on vacation. At first, they could only answer with a “No” response, and they felt defeated after their ideas were shot down over and over again.

After a few minutes, participants were allowed to say “Yes, but…” to their partners’ vacation ideas. While these conversations were generally more positive, having the qualifier “but” as part of the brainstorm about where to vacation ultimately proved to be limiting to the quality and breadth of ideas being generated.

Finally, participants were allowed to respond to their partners’ plans about where to vacation with a “Yes, and…” response. The plans kept getting bigger, grander and more creative, and the sense of energy and excitement in the room was palpable.

By accepting new ideas and building upon them with a “Yes, and…” response, brainstorming can be more powerful, more productive and ultimately generate better ideas. Today, when Hagan is in meetings with her teams, she’s much more cognizant of how both she and her team members are framing their communication, and she works to have a “Yes, and…” attitude as much as possible.

Try this approach in your next brainstorming session and see where it takes you.

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