3 Improv skills that are great for communication

A few weeks ago I was on a streak to start new things in my life following a major life change (ongoing at time of writing). One of my adventures was to join an Improv 101 class. I had heard many great things about Improv from my peers, and discovering that Product people love Improv – I decided that I had to try it.

Here’s 3 skills I learnt that relate to communicating well:

  1. It’s the communicator’s responsibility for how a message is received. There was a game that we played that involved passing mimed items to other players while more similarly named items were added over time (e.g. Red Ball, Red Bowl, Red Bull). One takeaway for me was that if everyone was supportive, we all win. When you passed your item to another person, you would make sure they knew what item you were handing them. If you held an item and was going to hand it off, you didn’t hand it to the player who was already juggling more items they could “hold” and also not when they were preoccupied. Back to our daily lives, how often do we check if who we are giving information to are ready to receive it? Take responsibility for the messages we want to share, and check that the right message has been received.
  2. Understand and accept that few people actually think like you do. Try playing “word at a time” or “sentence at a time” story games and you will quickly realise that people have very different thought processes. You may try to set the story up one way, and inevitably someone thinks the story takes another route – don’t assume others follow your line of thinking. Be explicit in what you are trying to communicate, and be ready to explain further if the audience is having a hard time following. Be obvious when it’s appropriate, it helps and supports others.
  3. The emotion and energy level you bring matters. A conversation is most enjoyable when the emotions matches what you are talking about, but also when both parties are “matching” each other in energy levels. Sometimes if the energy in the room is too low, consider doing a small activity to bring the energy back up. Other times it’s a good indicator that there may be something underlying to pay attention to if the energy levels are consistently not “matching”. In difficult discussions it may help to match the other party’s energy, or alternatively alert them to the disparity (of course with the intention of better communication, not as finger pointing!) and it should change the quality of the discussion.

Have you tried Improv? What would you add to this list?

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Curious Human | Product Manager | Data Geek

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Carol Low

Carol Low

Curious Human | Product Manager | Data Geek

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