How Improv Comedy Improves  Conversations at Work

How Improv Comedy Improves Conversations at Work

Conversations at work can often feel more like political debates and battles between egos. People with strong points of view argue and debate without anyone moving toward solutions or common goals. Collaboration is difficult when conversations are competitive. Instead of dialoging together, co-workers try to outdo each other. Without fully listening, people are forming their own thoughts, just waiting their turn to jump in. A common response to new ideas is often “No,” or “Yes, but…” followed by, “That wouldn’t work and I’ll tell you why.” What if we could improve conversation skills so that everyone—supervisors, team leaders or individuals-may connect more by engaging in creative, collaborative dialogue? Instead of debating differences and promoting our own opinions, the discussions would be supportive, friendly and fun. Here’s a suggestion: Simply replacing “No” with a response of “Yes, and…” can make all the difference. This conversational rule comes from improvisational theater. The way improv comedians are trained turns out to be excellent for improving conversations at work as well. The First Rule of Improv Comedy Second City Works has been offering training to organizations for decades now because the same skills required for comedians on stage are also effective for companies. Improvisational training improves people’s ability to process on the fly, relinquish power struggles, create space for everyone to contribute, and learn how to learn from failure. People use the rules of improv to increase their capacity for innovation, creativity and confidence. In the book Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration–Lessons from The Second City, by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton, the authors describe...

Communicating Better: 4 Social Signals

Successful people are great communicators who recognize that conversations are part of an evolving social process. They aren’t just skilled listeners; they’re attuned to subtle social signals that are more revealing than words alone — and they use them to their advantage. We’re more connected than ever before. The ability to reach out and communicate with people around the globe has never been more accessible. But are we paying attention to key signals that improve our understanding? Ten years ago, half of humanity had never made a phone call, and only 20 percent had regular access to communications. Today, 70 percent can place a phone call or send a text message. Almost every stratum of society is now connected. But if we look at unproductive meetings, failed sales pitches, fruitless negotiations and emails that spark firestorms, it’s easy to see that we’re not always skilled communicators. Despite technological advances in communication, our ability to detect social context has deteriorated. Fifty years of research reveals that words play only a small role in conveying meaning. Facial and other nonverbal expressions are larger contributors. And over the last decade, scientists have found that social signals are a significant, yet largely unexplored, communication channel. Social Channels  Social communication channels profoundly influence our major decisions, even though we’re usually unaware of them. These signals are produced unconsciously, so they’re supremely honest. As Alex Pentland of MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab explains in his book, Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World: Honest Signals comes from a new and emerging science, called network science, that tries to understand people in the context of their social...