3 improv exercises to improve communications

Flex your listening and relationship-building muscles with these techniques.

Inspiration comes to those who seek it.

My most recent “ah-ha” moment came during an educational seminar my organization hosted for our physician clients.

The topic was how to use improvisation techniques—spontaneity, collaboration and flexibility—to improve communication with patients and staff members (in my case, with co-workers and loved ones).

In the same way that word games can improve your writing, improvisation techniques can improve your conversational and listening skills. Practice the techniques below with a partner and then try them at home or work:

1. Two things in common

For this exercise, ask your partner questions to find out two things that you have in common.

Ask things such as, “How long have you lived in Austin?” “What kind of writing do you produce?” If you already know the person, dig deeper to learn new things that you have in common, such as: “How do you feel about the singular ‘they?'”

This is a great networking game. Next time you’re at an event, talk to people with the intent of finding two things you have in common.

2. Last letter, first letter

This technique is an easy way to practice listening skills, and involves determining the last letter of the last word your partner says. Then you start your next sentence with that letter.

Here’s an example:

“Piracy may be our only option.”
“Not necessarily.”
“You have a better idea?”

“Acrobatics. We can pursue careers in acrobatics.”

If there is someone in your life who interrupts you constantly—such as a teenage son or daughter—this exercise can help you address it.

3. 60-second rant

A technique that can be great for interviews, the 60-second rant involves picking a topic that you feel passionate about and talking about it—uninterrupted—for 60 seconds. Your partner listens and responds with one sentence: “Based on what you’re saying, you really care about _______.”

With this response, you’re not repeating or summarizing what your partner said or offering solutions. Instead, validate how your partner feels.

When I practiced this, I ranted about how extra-curricular activities have taken over the lives of my kids. My partner replied:

“Based on what you’re saying, you really care about spending time with your kids and you wish you had more time with them.”

That is precisely what I care about.

Have you practiced these exercises before, PR Daily readers? What happened when you did?

Laura Hale Brockway is a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her posts on writing, editing and corporate life at impertinentremarks.com.

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