You’ve heard it many times: Being a real estate agent is like owning a small business. Isn’t that one of of the reasons you wanted to be one? In order to run a successful, thriving business you must work at improving it and using the basic rules from improvisational acting is proving to be effective.
Some big names (Google, Yahoo, Gap, American Express just to name a few) have tested and stand by the fact that improv exercises have helped improve their business from building teamwork, stimulating creativity and strengthening customer service.
What is this elusive improv?
It was originally used as a new approach to teach acting techniques in the 1920’s by a woman named Viola Spolin. Her son Paul Sills expanded on it with some close friends who saw the wonderful potential of comedy in it. As it has grown in popularity, scholars saw the connection basic improv rules have in common with good business practices.
These first couple of rules sound simplistic, but join in one improv exercise and you’ll see how difficult it can be to train your brain. But don’t get discouraged, old dogs can learn new tricks! Lakshmi Balachandra, a professor at MIT who teaches improv to MBA students, says these five rules are a great way to start incorporating improv into your business:
“Yes and” is the foundation
If you were to take a class at The Second City training center for comedy, this is the very first thing you would be taught. It simply means you accept what is given to you and then react appropriately. Sounds simple right? Next time you have a conversation with someone try to avoid saying the word ‘no’. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with what someone else is saying, but that you simply accept it as his or her opinion/feeling/motive.
In conversations, people are often planning ahead rather than really listening. It’s especially easy to be distracted at work. When you make the effort to truly listen, accept what is said and deal with it appropriately all in the same moment you get things done! Decisions are made.
Avoid asking too many questions
In other words, if you are asking all the questions, the other person is doing all the work answering/adding information to the conversation. This applies to dating as well. Ever go out on a date and the other person asks you so many questions by the time the date is over you feel like you know nothing and he or she knows your entire life story?
In order for things to go where you want them to, you need to add information to the conversation. Words are powerful and you can’t get what you want by having people guess what you’re thinking.
This is an extended version of focused listening. Look at who you are talking to. What is his or her body language saying that the words are not?
Here is a little homework for you: Next interaction you have with someone at work, try to practice all of these rules. Make eye contact, listen intently, accept what is being said and add information while avoiding asking unnecessary questions. Once you get this down, you’ll be ready for more advanced techniques.