I want to talk a little bit about how improv is affecting my professional life. As I said, Improv probably didn’t make me any funnier, but I’ve learned many things from it. And for sure it affected my IT career as an SDET.
Disclaimer: This post is a transcription of my my youtube video. I recorded myself to improve my diction, and as part of the exercise I used a tool to transcribe the audio to find where I did not enunciate. This way I can also add the things I missed on the video. I am also conscious about my accent and I care about this message; so I wanted to make it more accessible by writing it down (although I tried to keep the same voice by barely editing it).
Enjoying being off script
The first and probably most important lesson that I’ve learned from improv is how to be comfortable being off script. In any work situation, many things will go wrong!
Improv training is very beneficial at the office and not only for disasters like the slices of your presentation are not working! On a daily basis, I have to solve a situation that I have never been faced before at work, so I approach it the same way as I Improv.
I train myself to be ready and create enough muscle memory, so I can find a solution of the problem am I facing without having to rehearse that exact same situation. This is the strength of learning the building blocks without memorising a script to solve the problem.
I am not saying Improv is the only place where I trained myself to react (it was a big part of my engineering degree), but every time I go on stage is an extra rep!
Getting more comfortable with the language
This is probably really personal to me, but Improv has helped me get more command on the language. I mainly used English at work before Improv, so having to create the scenes about both personal relationship (and maybe completely surreal situations) made me more comfortable with the language.
This is something I have been exploring in many posts, talking about how doing improv outside of your mother tongue affects your performances, and sharing stories of expats improvising in English. Many of my scene partners joined the theatre as a way to improve their English and make them more comfortable coming with ideas in the moment. As you may have observed, it has not fixed my accent nor improve my grammatical errors!
Scenes at work
My third lesson is to understand the scenes that I have with my colleagues, my managers and my clients.
I like to approach most situations like actual scenes (who talks about being obsessed, am I right?), and understand which are the games that they are playing with me, so I can use that information to create a better connection with them.
For example, if I find that my manager is really comfortable making jokes and being completely honest, I can use it like as the game of the scene and feed that behavior to her. That will foster a better connection!
I find being aware of my characters is very useful. This way, I can fit and mold into a situation using their different traits. Improv helps me identify those games so I can make the decision of playing them, or playing against them.
Not playing the scene, but the show
I am a very analytical person, so I love playing the entire shows while letting my (more skilled) partners focus on the scene work. I love finding what is needed and how can we make the most of a given situation.
Playing the show easily translates to a professional environment. When I am in a meeting, I try to fill the role or gap that will make a biggest impact myself. Maybe we are lacking someone to mediate, or to express the counter arguments. I am used to that in every improv show!
Improv has helped me getting more confidence and taking responsibility on situations like meetings or interviews, as I can better understand social situation.
Listening. Listening. Listening.
The last (and most impactful)l lesson that I’m carrying from improv to my professional life is all the training that I’m getting and just listening.
I have been practising careful and active listening with my scene partner on every single show and practice, and I can see the impact that has had with my managers or colleague! I have never had anyone complaining “whoa my colleague is just listening too much I wish they will listen less”. So this universal lesson will always make you a better professional, and probably a better human!
What about you
I am really curious to know which lessons are you carrying from improv to your professional life! I work on IT, so the biggest impact has been in my interactions with colleagues and clients; but I am really interested to know about you.
As I said before: Improv hasn’t made me any funnier, but it has made me a better person.
I am writing down my Improv journey and the lessons I am learning from it ranging from being mindful with people’s cultures and languages to the struggles of women in improv. I am sure you can learn from them, even if you have no intention of going on stage, so feel free to subscribe to my mailing list.