Improv Secret #2:
Guarantee You Start Off Strong...
For Dating, Work and Life!
Ever tripped up over what to say? Ever felt you said something stupid? Ever get asked a question on a date or job interview and felt clumsy and awkward? Ever clam up, get tongue-tied, or wring your hands in distress?
Here's a simple tool to help guarantee you sound as smooth, classy, confident and sophisticated as you are inside!
I'm sitting at my desk as I write this, and I'm looking at the bookshelf I got today. Do you know how to build a bookshelf? Simple. You take two pieces of wood and put them together. Then, add another piece. Then, add another. Eventually, you've made a bookshelf!
How is that connected to improv? I'll get to that in a minute.
Let's imagine that you're asked to do a speech last minute. They just grab you, throw you on stage and expect you to talk coherently to a group of people. Can you? How do you even start? Would you sputter and cough? Would you say, "I'm sorry, I can't."
What would you do?
First, let's play an improv game!!!
I'm going to start a sentence and you fill in the blank for me. Got it? Good!
The watermelon is _______.
Did you fill in the blank? Great, you're doing awesome. Let's have another go:
The weather is _______.
Excellent! Do it a few more times:
I'm feeling ______.
My cousin is a _______.
I once went ________.
I love to __________.
Fantastic. That's all you had to do. Now, read on...
Now, I don't know if you said the watermelon is fresh, ripe, green, tasty or rotten. I also don't know if you said you love to kayak, skydive, read, rest or eat. I don't know any of your answers. But, I know that once you got going, your brain kept going.
"An improviser in motion stays in motion.
A person tends to continue in the direction they started."
It's unlikely you said, "I'm feeling table." Or, "I once went mirror." Because that wouldn't make any sense. (If those were your answers, please let me know!)
You also didn't say, "I love to be stung by bees." Why? Because you had already started in the direction of things you love. You'd have to go, "I love to... I don't know. But, I hate to be stung by bees." And, even without being beside you as you read this, I know you didn't do that.
Now that you appreciate this simple law of human physics: how can you apply this to getting jobs and romantic partners?
Elementary, my dear Watson. (Did you know Sherlock Holmes never said that? It's true!)
Let's pretend you're in a business meeting and your boss asks you for suggestions to improve the company. How do you start off strong?
You turn to strong phrases that send you in the right direction. Things like this:
"Here are the top 3 ways we can increase profits."
"There are 2 mistakes our company is making again and again that we must fix."
"Let me share a strategy that could transform our company."
Plus, you say it in a strong, confident voice!. Utilize good posture and confident eye contact.
What's going to happen? If you start off with a strong statement of what you want to talk about, and project confident body language, you'll set the odds in your favor. You'll be likely to continue in that strong, confident direction.
"But, wait!" You say to me. "What if I'm not thinking of 3 ways to increase profits?"
It doesn't matter...
You keep putting one foot in front of the other!
Surely you can think of one way to increase profits. So, you talk about that. As you're presenting that idea, other ideas will come to mind. You'll be ready to present great idea #2. As you present that idea, amazing idea #3 will pop into your brain. And... POOF! You've made it through your presentation with flying colors.
It's like that bookshelf I mentioned earlier: you keep adding pieces until it's complete.
"But, wait!" You say again. "What if I pick the WRONG ideas?"
They don't have to be the "perfect" ideas. They don't have to be "right" or "the best." They just have to be good.
What determines if they're good?
A large part of how your ideas are perceived will be your presentation of them. If you present them confidently, they're likely to be viewed positively. If you present them in a fearful and nervous way, people are likely to think they must not be good. (Why else would you be nervous about them?)Your body language, voice tone and eye contact are the nonverbal aspects of your presentation. These will make a greater impact on how your ideas are accepted than what you say.
Also, first impressions impact everything that comes after them. If you confidently say at the start, "This is going to be mind-blowing!" People will view everything you say after that as more impressive, important, and exciting.
If you start by saying, "I have some, um, ideas. They might or might not be good. Um, but I wanted to share them. Uh, yeah, so thanks for listening..." After that kind of opening, nobody is likely to pay much attention, even if you present the best ideas in the universe.
If you'd like another example of how this works, let's go on a date!
Let's imagine we're at a nice Italian restaurant together. We're looking romantically into each other's eyes. I ask you, "What do you do for a living? How'd you get into it?"
"Well, um, nothing exciting. I'm a _____. I guess I just wandered into it the way most people do..."
You are not getting kissed tonight! Hell, we're not gonna hold hands...
Let's try this again. Reverse time...
"What do you do, sexy? How'd you get into it?"
"I have a job that has many fascinations for me. I'm a ________. There are a few things that make it incredibly interesting to me..." "And, there's a wild story about how I got into it..."
What if you don't like your job? At all...
"The funny thing is, I absolutely hate my job! I'm making plans to get away. Let me tell you about what I dream of doing..."
(If you hate your job, you are finding something else to do next, right? Right?)
But... what if your job is boring? And, you're planning to stay? And, there's nothing you'd rather do? And, the story of how you got it is boring, too?
First off, shame on you!
Second, if you say, "There's a really wild story about how I got it..." Then, you will almost certainly remember some wild aspects of how you got it. It's gonna happen. The word "wild" can go into a lot of directions. Pick one and run with it!.
The point is the same. Start strong and keep going in that direction.
Here are your steps to greater success thinking-on-your-feet:
- State a powerful statement to set your direction.
- State it with strong, confident body language.
- Trust your mind and inner resources to continue in the direction you've started.
The basic improv concepts are:
- Your mind and body will tend to continue in the direction you've started. If you start with a strong statement and body language, that tends to continue. If you start weak, that tends to continue. (If you hesitate and wait, that also tends to continue. He who hesitates waits, and waits, and waits...)
- You don't need to think of everything at once. Take it step-by-step and trust that it will come.
- Your voice tone and body language carry even more impact than what you say.
- There's no "right" or "wrong" thing to say. You'll be judged largely on first impressions and how you present your ideas.