The First Rule of Improv Comedy

An Improv course was one of the first courses I enrolled in after completing my coaches training. I sensed that I was a bit too serious and needed to lighten up to be a successful solo entrepreneur and speaker. I am confident that I can be warm and engaging and maybe a bit funny one on one which is in alignment with my strengths.

Engaging in Improv was one of the scariest and best things I have done for myself. I gained confidence in being able to remain authentic while being spontaneous.


Second City Works has been offering training to organizations for decades because the same skills required for comedians on stage are also effective for communicating in companies. Improvisational training improves people’s ability to process on the fly, relinquish power struggles, create space for everyone to contribute, and learn how to learn from failure. People use the rules of improv to increase their capacity for innovation, creativity and confidence.

In the book Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration–Lessons from The Second City, by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton, the authors describe how the same improv skills used to create funny scenes can also improve emotional intelligence, increase creativity, and teach you to pivot out of tight and uncomfortable situations.

Improv comedians share the common goal of a lasting interaction and a deep connection with their co-players and the audience. Above all else, players aim for flow. When you think about it, these are similar goals required of people working together in business today.

For the next few days work on saying 'Yes, and…' – see what happens. Click To Tweet

How can Improv Comedy Improve Conversations?

At work, conversations can often feel more like political debates and ego sparing. Some people with strong view points often argue and debate without moving toward solutions or common goals and they are fine with those results. While others with different strengths find those situations uncomfortable or pointless and, when possible, avoid them.

Interdependent dialog is difficult if not impossible when conversations and individuals are competitive. Instead of dialoging together, co-workers try to outdo each other. Without fully listening, people form their own thoughts and rebuttals, just waiting for their turn to jump in.

A common response to new ideas is often “No,” or “Yes, but…” followed by “That would not work and I’ll tell you why.”

What if we could improve conversation skills so that everyone—supervisors, team leaders, individuals—can connect by engaging in creative, interdependent dialog? Instead of debating differences and promoting our own opinions, the discussions would be supportive, friendly and fun.

Simply replace the “No” response with that of “Yes, and…” It can make all the difference. This conversational rule comes from improvisational theater. The way improv comedians are trained turns out to be excellent for improving conversations at work as well.

I am always surprised at how often people use the phrase “Yes, but…” in my coaching and strengths work with clients. It seems we are wired for spotting the “buts” instead of the “ands.”

This is my suggestion: for the next few days work on saying “Yes, and…” – see what happens. What do you notice? You might be surprised! If you have questions, let’s talk. Contact me or let’s connect on LinkedIn.


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