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Listen, Say Yes, and Commit

How a lesson in Improv can be applied to everyday life

· You Matter

Listen, say yes, and commit were the first rules of comedy improvisation I learned.

They are the basic building blocks to create an entertaining improv performance and I quickly realised how valuable they are in everyday life.

Effective improv, like life, depends on collaboration and co-operation. If we are busy thinking only about ourselves and what we are going to do, or say next, we can't be fully present with the others. So often in life we can find ourselves in a conversation where we are not actually giving our full attention to the person speaking but instead just waiting for an opportunity to say what's on our mind.

In improv we learned to really listen to what the others we saying, to acknowledge and build upon it by saying 'yes, and...' and adding something more to the story, and the possibility of what might unfold.

Swap the 'and' for a 'but' and you get a very different outcome. A series of 'yes, but...' responses really makes the energy drop, and the possibilities evaporate. But play along with a 'yes, and..' and a whole new world can open up in the moment. When we acknowledge and build upon someone's idea the energy and excitement can create all sorts of possibilities that we may never have imagined.

Finally, commit. Throw ourselves all in. Don't loiter on the sidelines, one foot in, one foot out. But be decisive. Commit to what is happening as if it really matters. You might be surprised what is possible.

Have you noticed what your natural stance is? Do you pay full attention when someone is speaking with you, do you acknowledge and build upon what they say, or are you more likely to have your own agenda, and discourage their ideas whether consciously or not?

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