Communication Skills For Life
I was the most skeptical person in our Improv 101 class. I had just finished law school, which is a whole lot of learning to think in boxes, and this instructor was telling us to think in terms of "Yes, And" -- in terms of accepting whatever has come before and building on it. What if I wanted to "No, But?" What if what they said didn't make sense or they were just wrong? What if I wanted to turn it in a different direction?
A few classes in, a now-best-friend and I were doing a scene about Shark Week, and I said something about there being blood in the water. She misheard and said that she didn't know there would be so many "blondes in the water." Instead of correcting her, I went with it -- now it was blondes in the water, and all of a sudden the sharks were attacking only people from Nordic countries. That was probably the moment that it clicked for me -- it wasn't about flat agreeing with someone, it is about building, collaboration, and communication. It is patently about "not me" but "us." It was about being in-the-moment, thinking on your feet (or in a chair -- this scene was seated), rolling with the unexpected, and not trying to design the outcome.
Those things are all essential to well-polished communication skills, but it took until months after I had already graduated from a top-10 law school for me to have my communication skills "click" in that manner. Communication skills are essential to work on at every age, though. Kids and teenagers need focused training on collaborative and positive communication now more than ever, thanks to all the screen time taking them away from face-to-face communication. Professionals years into their careers need to be trained on how to communicate well so meetings go smoothly, clients and workers feel heard, and brainstorming is productive. Seniors need the opportunity to train on communication skills that give them opportunities to make new friends and keep their minds sharp. We could all use improv at all stages of our life. It is definitely something we should all say "yes, and" to. But, also, maybe stay out of shark-infested water.