How Improv Has Made Me A Better Person

In my previous post I mentioned the whole idea of "yes and". It's about learning not only saying yes to ideas, but also adding to that idea. All good improvisers follow this rule on stage and most translate this to their everyday lives. Saying no to things leaves you in the same spot you're in, but saying yes moves your life forward. Of course I still say no to things, this isn't the plot of "Yes Man", I simply find myself building off other peoples ideas and using it to spawn my own creative thoughts.

I've learned to say yes to a lot more things in life because of improv. I've had a lot more fun and accomplished more because of it. It allows you to never act like you're the complete expert on anything and build off ideas from everyone. You learn that the first idea isn't the most important one, but it's just the first step in a creative proccess. If you keep saying NO to the first idea then you'll never get started and the whole project/activity becomes creatively stifled.

It's also a lot more fun to be around people who say "yes" more. People ask me, "What's it like hanging out with improvisors? I bet it's just a bunch of theater nerds trying to get attention and out funny each other." In reality that couldn't be further from the truth. I've never been around such a supportive group of people in my life. I love hanging out with other improvisors, not only because we're weird, but because they're so supportive and hilarious. This is true even at auditions. I never feel like I'm in a competition with the other performers, but instead feel like we're all there to have fun. For how competitive improv is in Chicago it's still a very corporative environment to be in.

The opposite of "yes and" is "no but" where someone shoots down whatever you said and comes up with something completely different. The number one place for this to happen is work and it's horrible because this is the perfect environment for "yes and". At most companies the CEO/manager/top person of whatever is king and what they says goes, but if they're smart they hire the type of people who are willing to provide their own ideas. Unfortunately, we all know that this isn't how things work at most companies.
A good example is with the company I used to work for. My managers were good with "yes and", but the CEO of the company  wasn't. They thought that just because they had been successful with some things that they were the master of everything. I'll always remember the day where I had to shoot a video with them for some company wide e-mail. I gave them suggestions on what to do and how to present themselves, but they just said "no but" to every idea and didn't listen. I ended up shooting the whole video, editing it, and then having them say that we needed to reshoot it because it wasn't good enough. They listened to my advice the second time around, but they never acknowledged it and acted the same way for future projects.

Acting like you're the coolest kid in the room and not supporting other people is no way to live or work. This is why some companies pay improv theaters like Second City to come to their office and teach improv. Many places even pay for their employees to take improv classes in their free time. It teaches you to support the people around you, enjoy what everyone has to offer, and become more of a free thinker. So even if you don't think you're a funny person please go and take an improv class. There are several improv theaters around the city that offer intro classes and the main focus will always be "yes and". A two or three hour improv class once a week will change your life forever.

Filed under: Advice

Tags: better, improv, improve, life, yes and


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  • What a brilliantly simple concept! I'm going to make an effort to do this at work. Thanks for sharing!

  • In reply to Anne Kiplinger:

    The Second City is now in registration for improv classes and offer drop-in classes on Wednesdays and Sundays. Great opportunities to experience the benefits in improv in your everyday life!

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