by Jules Munns

Humans are social animals. We evolved in groups, building bonds, exchanging favors and resources. And however society changes, and surviving and thriving is still based on communicating clearly with the people we are surrounded by.

Humans didn’t evolve to live in large groups as we do. Or to move between groups as much as we do. This can be a challenge. For many people, new or larger groups of people can make you nervous, and unsure how to behave. New environments can be disorientating. We worry about who to talk to, what to say. We wonder if we will be rejected, or gossiped about. And everybody hates making small talk. We need skills now which we didn’t before.

Because even though what we cooperate on is different, our need to cooperate is the same. We talk together, work together, and succeed or fail together. We build social bonds with family, friends, and colleagues, exchanging information and favors. The people we spend time with become a part of who we are. 

Improv is an inherently social activity. You build stories and scenes with a partner or in a group. That means it’s like going to the gym for your social skills. You isolate different ways to relate to people and work on them, understanding and applying the skills of interpersonal relations in a fun environment. 

Here are some improv-based techniques you can use to improve your social skills:

  1. Listen to understand, not to respond. How much of a sentence do we really listen to before planning our reply? In improv, we learn to listen softly and with empathy, giving our partner space to think as they talk, and taking in what they are really saying. 
  2. Offer something. In situations where we are nervous, it can feel instinctive to deny or negate. Improv teaches you to add something to the conversation. We call this ‘making an offer’. 
  3. Just say it. In high-pressure scenarios, an extreme reaction can be to worry so much that you end up silent. This comes from the desire to be perfect, to say the right thing. Accepting our own imperfection.
  4. Get comfortable with discomfort. The older we get, the easier it is to avoid uncomfortable situations. But discomfort is often where the learning is. So learn to accept discomfort as part of growth.
  5. Make it matter. the conversations and connections we remember are the ones that mean something, that are about something important. So be vulnerable, say something that matters to you. Maybe others will too.

Interested? Come try one of our budget-friendly regular drop-in classes, a free taster session, or take the plunge with our Level 1a, especially for those who have never done any performance before. Just click below.