Science finds that engaging in creativity such as Improv Comedy builds self-confidence due to actual changes in rain function.
Are you plagued by that voice in your head? How many times have you missed out in your personal or professional life because that fear of speaking freely, fear of failure, fear of the unknown held you back?
I have seen Improv Comedy classes turn total stage fright into out going fun loving individuals in kids and adults. I have said just playing Improv Games builds self confidence. I just learned why.
Improv game play gets those happy juices flowing, thanks to the smiles and laughter that literally squeeze the fun out of your face, into the whole body while pumping oxygen into the brain. To the thousands that have seen our shows, I feel bad, playing the games is so much more fun than watching. Mind, body and soul are nourished on another level.
However, improv actually increases certain brain functions while turning off the Debby Downer “inner critic” part of your mind. Reading this article is a major AH HA moment that have seen the actualization of this science.
“During improvisation, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreased in activity and the medial prefrontal cortex increased. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is like your inner critic; it’s that voice in your head that says, “Don’t say that” or “What will happen if you’re wrong?”
YES! And… Is the #1 rule in Improv. This simple two word governing principal packs a lot of benefits for your personal and professional life.
How much easier would it be to interview for a job, make new friends, interact with co-workers, have an honest conversation with partners, or even lead a team if we could reduce or out right eliminate fears of failure, fears of the unknown and social anxieties such as stage fright?
We daily claim to clients from corporate teams that Improv Comedy will help build team, leadership, sales and service skills. We claim Improv builds creative writing, critical thinking, public speaking and self-confidence.
But how does Improv comedy build these skills?
Stage Fright is the #1 phobia, combining both the fears of unknown and fear of failure. Combined these fears paralyze the best of us and even cause physical sickness and nausea.
Similarly social interaction anxieties thrive in this phobic space.
Improv turns fears of public speaking and social interaction on their head by simply playing games as a team. No one individual is left out to fail. The team forms a tight knit unit that works together to play.
That’s right, we don’t perform, we play. We play games.
We pass words around like a sports team passes a ball. In fact, sometimes we even pantomime passing around a ball.
We start with the basics. We play games that require listening and focus to succeed and nothing else. A game like ZIP ZAP ZUP seems silly and ridiculous, but it’s genius is it’s break down of all other needs. All you have to do is to follow the energy around the room, listen and focus. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to impress. You just do.
Then we add words. We don’t try to be funny. We don’t try to be clever. We just listen and respond. We simply contribute to the team.
Then we create sentences, one word at a time. Eventually we offer entire sentences at a time.
At each step we teach just adding a word is better than trying to think of the perfect word. Any word you say is good enough and accepted. There are no mistakes. There is no failure. There is no judgement.
Think like a five year old. Just play. Leave behind all those things we learned in middle school like fear and judgement.
Also let go of ego, the over compensation for insecurity. Find a space where all are on equal footing, regardless of age, experience etc.
I tell students of any age not to even hold myself, the teacher with 18 years experience as better.
Psychological Safety achieved. The spark of self-confidence blooms. Wonderful things emerge….
Creativity Now Thrives
As artists, this space, free of judgement, free from fear, the brain’s synapses start to fire.
Now that we have relaxed our tensions and laughed a bit, oxygen is pumping in at new highs. The head actually starts to tingle.
Ideas flow. As an actor, ideas about character. As a designer, shapes and colors circle. Even programers start to see new patterns for computer codes.
We become open to new ideas from others as well. Creative collaboration thrives.
William Fry, the late great humor guru from Stanford University, states that humor builds a better brain by constantly comparing two otherwise unlike items.
Once you let down your guard, you see more possiblity. You can’t think our of the box when stuck in your own construct.
The world tries to put us in a box, stop doing that to ourselves. (Branding “experts” might disagree lol).
As a team, YES! And… will lead to all sorts of possibilities. The solution to the problem is never found at the initial brainstorm. Too many teams and companies and individuals fail by not fleshing out all the options.
“Never fall in love with your first draft” or idea. But letting those first ideas flow without fear of failure will lead to the amazing choices.
Better Presentation Skills
Most classes in public speaking have it backwards, trying to build your confidence by teaching you better presentation skills.
Simply building confidence, reducing fear of failure and unknowns, opens one up to present information better. Over time you will learn from mistakes, because NOW you are not afraid to make big ones. You are taking chances.
Now if you misspeak, stumble, for draw a blank for a moment you won’t freak out. You can simply smile, breathe and move past the inconsequential moment in time, and find humor and joy in your “failure”.
Also Improv teaches storytelling. Your presentations, whether to a mass gathering or small table of friends, will become more interesting.
Both personal and business relationships are destroyed, or never formed, due to these fears.
Many amazing connections are avoided altogether, because we fear the word NO, in others.
Fear of initiating contact could lead to missing out on a valuable partnership.
Great sales people and con artists are successful because they know about the numbers games AND never fear it’s perceived failures. A NO is not a failure, it’s just a NO.
The Confidence to Say YES
Saying NO is easy choice. Saying NO is the lazy choice.
Saying YES puts responsibility on your shoulders. It requires follow through. It requires listening. It requires confidence in your self.
Saying YES puts yourself out there for possible failure, possible hurt.
How many say no at work, because you fear backlash.
NO, we can’t afford that.
NO, we don’t have time for that.
NO, the bosses won’t go for that.
How many great ideas are left behind because too many lacked vision?
Instead, what if you enacted a little improv exercise? Ignore the kneeejerk NO and take two minutes to brainstorm that idea.
Maybe it leads no where, but chances are it leads to another even better idea that NEVER would have materialized.
This vision takes YES AND leadership.
The Confidence to Say NO
We focus on saying YES in the improv world. But it needs to be stated that we should always say yes UNLESS it puts us in physical, mental or emotional harm.
Having confidence to say NO at the right time can save a life time of pain. Too many reserve NOs for fear of involvement but fear saying NO when it will save us pain, in some cases physical injury.
Saying NO to an abusive friend or family member or partner, because we fear being alone, financial ruin etc is real.
Saying NO to a “friend” daring us to ski down that that slope we are not easy for can kill.
Building confidence gives us the power to choose our story.
It’s Not All Kumbaya
For me, YES And… is a selfish choice. I surround myself with, and support individuals that support me. Those that choose to judge or abuse are left out. I give them every chance to embrace, I try to teach them to let go of the old games, but at the end of the day, I get to choose my family.
I experience pain and hurt. That’s part of life. But in between tough moments I am surrounded with smiles and laughter. I have amazing clients that come back year after year. I work with the best team of artists. When I have love to give I give. When I am hurting I have a village of support, now from around the world thanks to social media.
Have the confidence to make GREAT choices in business and personal life.
Start building your tribe today, surrounding yourself with supportive genuine friends buy discovering self confidence and other skills from improv comedy.
Psychological Safety is the #1 factor in team success!
In 2015, Google released the findings of their 4-year study into what makes a successful team. Project Aristotle found that the most consistent factor behind team success is Psychological Safety – meaning every member of that team feels safety to contribute and has a sense of value to the project.
“YES!” is all about accepting your colleagues and their contributions to the team. We create a safe space and level playing field for all. We accept our colleague 100% as is. EVERYTHING they say and do. We do not judge. We do not fear. We trust each other AND ourselves.
“AND…” is all about contributing valuable work and information to the team. We are going to take this to the next level by accepting our colleagues’ work, building upon with our own contributions. Performance drive is not a selfish process. We have a collective ambition to grow and achieve together as a team.
When the whole team embraces “YES! And…” we enter the learning zone together. No challenge is insurmountable when we work together in a supportive exchange of ideas and actions.
EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH Improv corporate clients include JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Twitter, BING/Microsoft, BAML, Home Depot, Ernst & Young, Louis Vuitton, Coach, UBS, BDO, AMEX, Master Card, Datadog, NY Life, Accenture, Macy’s, 360i, IBM, GM, KRAFT, UNILEAVER, HBO, and 100s more…
Over the past eighteen years, EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH Artistic Director, Walt Frasier has worked with hundreds of corporate teams as well as teachers and K12 school children, using Improv comedy to teach team building, leadership, sales and service skills. Since March 2020 Frasier and his team deliver online shows & classes.
Other credits include TV (Billions, Friends of the People, Royal Pains, Blue Bloods, Letterman, MTV, NICK, WE), Commercials and international credits in theater, comedy and music.