“I’m sorry, what?”
When was the last time you heard the above? We all know the person who in every conversation, meeting, or event is simply looking for their turn to speak. Or perhaps you relate all too well to waiting for your own word. While it is terribly polite of you to hold your peace, what is really going on while your friend or colleague’s wisdom is falling upon passive ears?
Onstage in improvisation, the simplest directive possible is, “listen and react.” We listen to the information our ensemble member is offering us, and because it is being discovered that very moment, it is brand new information we have never heard before, and therefore, we must react to it accordingly. Yes, what you are saying is true, and here is my addition to this reality we are creating together. If only real life were as simple!
In our work and in our personal interactions, the temptation to listen less and to speak more is great because we work within our own set expectations. What more could you possibly have to learn from Bob in accounting who has always given you the same expense report instructions? Well, today is the day! Bob has an all new template and a laundry list of opinions on the procedural crime drama he just finished binge watching. That is crucial information as well as an opportunity for personal connection that you may have missed because you were waiting your turn to speak rather than listening.
Your affinity for hour-long television aside, what keeps you from listening? The tendency to be filling out our own internal Mad Libs game when interacting with others can result from seeking confirmation bias. In business, especially one in which you have worked for a long time, you may be operating under many assumptions. As well you should be in many cases, since you do after all know your business. But the simple act of listening not only honors the ideas of the other person but also opens the door to moving forward.
Onstage, we refer to all information given by one performer to another as “gifts.” He gave the gift of the location, and she listened, reacted, and offered the gift of how they felt about being there. It is a gift because it was not something one person already had or found on their own. There was one gift offered, the next gift built upon that, and suddenly there is the third entity existing between the two, something that could not have been discovered without both distinct points of view. Ah, now listening is beautiful, and not something to be endured. Again, if only real life were as simple!
This is where Vegas Improv Power comes in. Translating our onstage practice to your conference room proceedings happens through enlightening – and fun! – listening exercises. We train you in an active and interactive way to really feel the act of listening, not just talk about in a Power Point. Because if you wanted to spend your professional development time staring at a screen, it should really be that new hour-long crime drama.