TOOL: Listening

So far we’ve added these important tools to our toolbox:

1. Empathy

2. Connection

3. Play

4. Strong Offers

5. Obvious instead of clever statements

What happens when you don’t feel listened to? What are the consequences?

One of the greatest tools an Improviser possesses and a tool that builds empathy, connection, along with trust and support is the ability to really, truly, listen.

To listen as an Improviser means to be fully present, in the moment, and to pay attention and observe everything that is being said and done on stage. It means to take care and support our partner because what they have to say is crucial to making sense of the unknown, and to co-creating a scene together.

Professional development training which infuses experiential training allows participants to build their listening muscles and increase these skills through habit-building and tie-back to real-world scenarios.

An improviser is also skilled at active listening = not merely hearing, but being affected by what they hear.  Improvisation guru and famed instructor and performer Rebecca Stockley teaches this mantra:  “everything my partner says is fascinating”. Repeating this mantra reminds us to be affected by what our partner says and to not let any offer or idea pass us by or be easily dismissed.

It’s true that for many of us, we listen better once we’ve said what’s on our mind. Unfortunately, if we are concentrating on what we’re going to say, we’re not listening as actively as we could. Adding some Improvisational tools to our training toolbox helps us to stay present in our conversations, add an element of give-and-take, relinquish control and to build listening muscles that extend beyond roles of customer service, sales, and leadership.

Listening is a skill that directly affects our ability to communicate and collaborate.

Not only are these tools must-haves for our toolboxes, but they can also be applied and “built upon” in a myriad of ways.

Begin with a strong offer, and then listen actively to build connection and empathy.

Now… what did you say?

What will you do today to change the world?

“What will you do today to change the world?” – read a morning text message from one of my best friends, Marc Harris.

It’s a daily exercise between friends on opposite coasts of the United States and a daily drill I’m very grateful for.

We share small to-do’s, accomplishments, or random acts of kindness back and forth via text message. Each day it makes me smile.

He and I are on similar journeys in different cities. We met 4 years ago in a early level Improv class in San Francisco, went on to co-found an Improv troupe and spent years playing, laughing, and leading an ensemble together.

We both work in learning and development and both have big dreams and goals.

This exercise reminds us that even if we didn’t change the whole world today, we were still capable of making a small, positive difference.   It reminds us to focus on the here and now, to keep things in perspective and to keep moving when it’s so easy to feel restless and eager to teach, facilitate and reach as many people as possible.

No matter the goal, there are small changes and acts we can commit to making each day. Having someone in your life to help keep you accountable, motivated, and focused is a wonderful tool that anyone can add to their toolbox.