Improvise Yourself to Confidence

Improvisation (or improv) is a form of performance, which involves acting, talking, singing and reacting to others and your environment in the moment.

Improv is unique in that when you see a bunch of improvisers performing, it is the only time you will ever see that particular performance. That scene will never be seen again due to the unscripted nature of the art.

I have recently got into this most fascinating area, mainly through improvisational comedy. It has become one of my weekly highlights and I’ve made some good friends.

Through my experience of improvisation thus far, it is clear that one does not need to do improvisation to become an actor, although it could very well help you to if you want.

It is an art that will help you with life itself.

This point is so important; I’m going to say it again and bold it.

It is an art that will help you with life itself.

Let’s now explore some of the skills you learn through improvisation and how these can improve your life.

You learn to get out your head

When learning how to improvise, there are a number of activities you can do. You might get involved in developing a small scene with 2 or 3 others. It could involve playing a game where you create a short story by taking the last sentence said by someone, and then adding your own sentence, and then someone takes your sentence and adds to that.

When participating in such activities you do one key thing – you get outside of your own head.

You are listening to what others are saying, and this means you spend less time caught up in the past or worrying about the future.

The key life skill you are developing here is to live in the present moment. And as we know, living in the present is true living.

You learn that failure is ok

Practicing and developing in improvisation skills really will test your need to be ‘perfect.

It is a supreme example, of an art, which one really cannot get better at, without failing again and again and again and one more for luck… again!

You learn to speak up

Ever wanted to voice your opinion at work, college or a social gathering, but hesitated for fear of being judged?

Improvisation is a type of performance, where you will get plenty of opportunity to speak up. Your confidence in your ability to speak up in everyday situations will grow.

You learn conversation skills

“Yes and…” is a key skill taught in improvisation. This involves taking the opportunity another person gives you in the form of a sentence and adding and building on this by saying “Yes and…” whatever sentence comes out of your mouth.

‘Blocking’, where you take what someone else says to you and say “Yes but…” and change the direction of the conversation to another area, is usually discouraged in improvisation. This is because it doesn’t lend itself too well to continuing a scene. It doesn’t feel too good either.

By learning to build on what others present to you, you can also do the same in your everyday life and have great conversations with people. You will be able to build rapport effortlessly and others will love you for it!

It’s curtains…

So, as you can see, improvisation has a number of benefits, which don’t necessary relate to performing, in the acting sense.

It is a form of self-development, which you can use to increase your confidence in your life.

Your turn

  • How could you use improvisation as a way to improve your life?
  • Do you already do improvisation or another type of performance? How have your skills helped you in everyday situations?
  • Please share your valuable views and experiences in the comments box below.

 

Photo Credit: aleske

32 Comments
  1. I love improvising and love going to see Improv at the theater. My brother in law is an actor and teaches improv. He just told us about “Yes, and…”. When he teaches improv to corporations. So it was amazing to read it here. I think I use improvising in all parts of my life. You have to be open to what life is giving you at just that moment. And improv is a great way to do it!

    1. Hi Betsy,

      I think it’s brilliant how your brother in law teaches improv!

      It really is turning into one of main interests!

      It’s great how you use improvisation in all aspects of your life. It really is reacting to the world spontaneously, and hence can definitely help a person who is learning to live in the present moment.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with improv, and for leaving your great comment! 🙂

  2. Hi Hiten,
    I like this terminology and what it brings…thanks for sharing
    be good to yourself
    David

    1. Hi David,

      I’m really glad you liked the post and thanks for dropping by here!

      Happy Father’s Day to all of you in Oz! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the tips. I will have to learn to improvise for it seems to bear a lot of benefits.

    1. Hi Melanie,

      You’re most welcome, and I’m really glad you’re interested in trying out improv! 🙂

  4. Great idea Hiten.This is wonderful way to feel the freedom that comes with understanding our marvelously made nature. It’s a fabulous feeling to understand that we are a rich and majestic children of infinite intelligence. A great way to feel this freedom it is to dance it, sing it and improvise it with the unbridled enthusiasm. There is mental magic that comes with this understanding. we feel free to respond to any life challenges in new and innovative ways. We no longer feel hindered by or compelled to react from past habits. If improv can help us break the iron tight grip of thought-habits, indeed it is a worthy endeavor!!

    1. Hi Rob,

      Yes, improv definitely is a route, which one can take on her/his journey of understanding as you say ‘our marvellously made nature’.

      Indeed, as Betsy touched upon her comment, it could also be considered a way of life.

      It really is about acting, speaking and behaving in the present moment, thought free. The more I practice it, the more I realise how it is the complete opposite to what we are taught to do when we are young, which is to constantly think and analyse. By doing this, we suppress our God given intuition to just be spontaneous.

      Improv really does bring out the true intelligence that children have.

      Your comment was absolutely amazing Rob. Thank you for writing it. The way you explained it, is just how improv can help a person in life! 🙂

  5. You make a very valuable point – you have to get outside of your own head! We all make the mistake of living so far deep inside our own minds that we miss important opportunities (and warning signs or impending disasters.)

    Improvisation could improve daily life by simply acknowledging those fleeting thoughts you have – those brilliant ideas that you never voice because you’re too aware of the concerns about your past and for your future. I think we all use improvisation a little bit without even realizing we’re doing so, and I’ve found that using these types of skills helps me to understand exactly what my clients are explaining to me. In other words, it forces me to listen to everything they have to say and play off that with my response so we can create workable solutions.

    1. Hi Steve,

      I agree with you. We spend so much time in our heads, it’s almost unreal. And where does it get us? We end up being so caught up in our thinking and feeling that we miss ‘real life’ going on around us.

      I loved what you said about not only missing important opportunities, but also missing danger signs. This is true. We get so caught up in ourselves, creating false warning signs (which are not dangerous at all), we probably miss real ones!

      I definitely hear you on what you say about coming up with brilliant ideas through spontaneity. It’s amazing how we get conditioned to believe that only deep analysis and thinking can lead to intelligent ideas. The truth is, we can create just as intelligent ideas if not more, if only we trusted ourselves to come up with idea without thinking.

      You’re also spot on about the great impact improv can have in business and dealing with clients. As you say, we become totally present with our clients and can give them our full attention rather being distracted our thoughts, which means we never really heard them in the first place.

      Thanks so much for leaving your comment, and adding so much more to this post, Steve. 🙂

  6. Great perspective here, Hiten. I’ve attended a number of improv shows over the years, but never gave much thought to what goes into it or what we can learn from it. Having a young family offers me a chance to improvise daily. I need to reflect a little more on what those experiences are teaching me!

    1. Hi Stephen,

      Thank you so much for your comment!

      One thing I forgot to add in my post is how much fun improvisational comedy is! 🙂

      It never ceases to amaze me how much humour emerges from doing off the cuff scenes!

      I appreciate what you say about improvising daily when I having kids. I can definitely see how this would require constant improvisation.

      Perhaps you could write a post on how bringing up kids, helps, a person improvise better? 🙂

  7. Low self confidence is one of greatest factors than can affect to an individuals performance that’s why they need attention and exposure to situations that they can stand on their selves and boost their self confidence. Advice and tips like this is a big help to everyone.

    1. Hi Paige,

      I loved your comment! 🙂

      I agree that if one is lacking confidence, then one has to be willing to expose themselves to situations where anxiety and fear is greatest.

      Improv is a great way to overcome fear of expressing oneself, and for learning to speak and behave confidently around other people.

      Thank you for your comment.

  8. Great post! I do love a great improv night! Years ago, when I was doing theater, just as the lights came up on stage, I realized that the guy who was supposed to be walking on wasn’t backstage at all….so, I walked out and called for an actress that I knew would be on the other side of the set. She and I improved an entire scene…and that night, the playwright had come to see the performance. During intermission, he sent me a message that he thoroughly enjoyed my “addition” to his work. It was a crazy few minutes, but a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing such a great plug for theater and especially for improv theater!

    1. Hi Burl,

      It’s great to see you here, mate! 🙂

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with improv! That was delightful to read.

      That’s the amazing thing about improv. The most natural and spontaneous of actions of between people seem to ooze with entertainment potential.

      I am beginning to learn as I become freer and spontaneous with what I say, that there are definitely some interesting thoughts and ideas stored up in my brain, which normally don’t get released! 🙂

      It’s the same for everyone who does improv.

      Thanks so much for dropping by Burl and sharing your experiences with us.

  9. Confidence is very crucial in everything that we do. I will definitely try and apply the tips that you have just shared. Thanks a lot.

  10. Doing improv on stage would scare me to death, but Tina Fey has this great line in her book “Bossypants” about the life skills that come along with improv. She says something to the effect that improv teaches you that you have to commit. If someone says, “you’re now a jellybean,” {she used a better example} you can’t say “no I’m not.” you have to go with it. I’ve thought about that so many times. I could learn a lot by just going straight ahead with something, head held high, even if it’s ridiculous.

    1. Hi Susanna,

      Thank you so much, for sharing Tina Fey’s teachings about commitment. Indeed, she is right. Commitment is a great skill taught in improv.

      The most recent workshop I attended last week was about practicing agreement and commitment. It really was fun! When my partner would say something, I would try and commit to what he/she said and would say “yes and..” and then whatever came my head.

      Another technique we learnt to support commitment was to say the following words in response to your partner’s words: “this means…” and then continuing the scene!

      It really is crazy and fun when you are doing this type of commitment and agreement with the weirdest of scene settings!

      It definitely recommend it, Susanna! Thanks a lot for your comment! 🙂

  11. Improv scares the hell outta me. Good for you for stretching your comfort zone and doing it! You’re far braver than I am. =) I was involved in theatre throughout high school, but never done improv. Table topics at my Toastmaster’s meeting is scary enough!

    But all of those benefits you listed I could definitely use, especially getting outside of my head and speaking up. I’m a very quiet person, and often withhold what I want to say out of fear. I can see how improv would help with that… I wonder if table topics will offer some of the same benefits? (That’s when someone introduces a random topic, then asks you a random question on the topic and you have to give a 2 minute speech on it.)

    1. Hi Kaylee,

      I believe you are a very brave person. 🙂 This much is very evident through your writing. I definitely recommend giving improv a go. You will thrive at it.

      Indeed, it does build upon table topics, which we do during public speaking meetings. I’ve always been fascinated with the spontaneity and confidence one can develop with table topics. However, I felt there wasn’t as much opportunity to do this during public speaking, as I would have liked. With public speaking more emphasis is placed on prepared speeches. Hence, this was one of the reasons I started improv, to really learn the art of thinking on your feet! 🙂

      Please do let me know how you get on Kaylee, should you decide to give it a go! Many thanks for leaving your great comment and adding to the discussion over here.

    1. Hi Jason,

      I’m really glad you liked the post, my friend! 🙂

      I really am beginning to love improv, and it is helping me to create more of a spontaneous attitude towards life. This is so much more fun!

      I just checked out your great post on the power of improv when it comes to relationships. It was brilliant and thanks for sharing!

      Thanks for leaving your comment, Jason. It’s always great to see you here.

  12. Hiten,

    I was so excited that you wrote a post on improv. And even more excited that you are studying it. I took classes for years, went to retreats, ultimately teaching and starting my own improv. troupe.

    EVERYONE should study improv….starting with elementary school kids through college, graduate school and into corporate life.

    It sounds like you are receiving tremendous benefits from it. I would love to chat with you about it one day. I’ve written about it o.n Awake Create in the context of Saying ‘Yes And’…as you know, one of the basic rules.

    Thanks for a terrific article. I was smiling as I read it. 🙂 fran

    1. Hi Fran,

      I’m so happy to hear you’re a fellow improviser! 🙂

      And it’s amazing how you went on to teach it and start your troupe! How often do you perform?

      I’m currently rotating around 3 local groups! My favourite game at the moment is saying stories using just one word, where we use the word of the previous improviser and add another word to it, to keep the tale going!

      Indeed, I really am gaining a lot of benefit from it, and I agree everyone would really do themselves a favour by learning it. It would help kids gain so much confidence when there are young, which would then help them as adults.

      Thank you so much for leaving your comment and sharing your experiences with improv!

      I just checked out your post on it. It was brilliant and I’m including the link below, so people can read it:

      http://www.awakecreate.com/say-yes-change-your-life/

  13. Self confidence should be easy but it’s not, at least for me it isn’t. I guess conversation skills is what I need to improve — thanks for the tips and write-up on how to do this.

  14. sounds like a great Idea Hiten
    i think this can make us feel more comfortable with ourselves
    gotta give it a try

    1. Hi Farouk,

      I definitely recommend giving improv a go. I’m sure you’ll really enjoy it. If you do try it, please let me know how you get along.

  15. […] Improvisational Comedy (or improv) involves developing scenes with other players, totally unscripted. As the scenes progress, comedy naturally emerges from them. I’ve written about how improv can help increase your confidence in another post. […]

  16. Great article!! I’m actually a person who stutters (PWS) and improv classes and performing on stage has definitely increased my confidence. Improv has also helped me be more open about my stutter. If anyone would like to watch my YouTube videos, my YouTube link is on my Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/ImprovBJW

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