Updated: Aug 26, 2021
When Mary asked me to write this article, the first thing that came to my mind was IMPOSTOR SYNDROME. Why would anyone ask me to write about improvisation (Fun fact - the I in the article title refers to improvisation or improv for short) and my views, MY VIEWS, on why improv is such a useful tool for the working environment, as well as for life. I said yes because, well I’m an improviser and we say yes! I mean, we don’t say yes to jumping off cliffs, or other smart-arse things you may wish to ask me to do to test this theory, but we do say yes, we do keep the discussion open and it really can improve your life. But more of that later.
During my workshop with Mary (on public speaking, confidence and improv within the working environment), the idea of taking up space was raised and how important it is to do this, especially for women, because in many situations we don’t feel that we can, and especially in work situations. So, what is taking up space? For me it is having my say, telling my story, being heard and being myself.
It can be hard to take up space, to have a voice, to be yourself. In theory, It should be easy, many things should be easy, but it is hard; active work that you need to do each day. There are those who will try to silence your voice. It can be purposeful, it is not always obvious, and sometimes not even intentional but it is always frustrating, especially in a professional setting. Furthermore, when we do take up space, it can feel we are being judged. We have all heard the tired clichés about women seeming aggressive because they express an opinion, whilst male counterparts are not subject to this scrutiny, however, we can’t always control the environments we are in, so what can we do?
I have found improv to be an underrated resource. What is improv? The simplest explanation would be making things up on the spot, but it is more than that, it is about being in the moment, present and able to build on interactions with others. Improv is such a useful tool in all areas of life, including your work life. I have found it useful both in group dynamics, being part of a team, as well as for the individual. I have noticed people finding a magical moment during a team-building workshop when they see how improv can be applied and how useful it is, and yes, also on an individual level the ability to be yourself and use your voice. Some environments can be more hostile than others and improv can help you keep your focus, learn to maintain your power or status (this is not about your position in society, it is about how you can interact, and you can be in control of this) and give space to those around you so they too can have a voice.
This is really the beauty of improv; the ability to adapt, grow, communicate and help others around you to achieve that too. It is important on the individual level and on a group level because groups are made up of individuals who need to work as one, building something together. This is where the power of saying “yes” is so useful, that ability to keep the discussion open and open for all to build.
Improv is not just about saying “yes”, or indeed “yes and” (building on the idea from saying “yes”) - storytelling, understanding point of view, being in the moment, having each other’s backs, understanding your power and how you can use it, are just a few examples of the many useful skills you can learn, plus it is fun! I cannot do improv justice in one short article, so if you want to know more please ask, research, attend a class or workshop, you won’t regret it; my Spotlight, Instagram or via LinkedIn.
When I started this article I was feeling very much the impostor but no one should feel like this, we should all be taking up space, having our say, telling our story and being heard.