I revealed to one of my friends in my TV writing class how much I hated networking. For context, I can go on a stage, in a room full of people and speak but I cannot go up to an individual and say “Hello my name is Kydee, what’s your name…” the whole ordeal freaks me out.
She suggested that I take an Improv class for my networking fright. What it does, is put you in situations, where you have to think on your toes and essentially you start to loosen up, become more comfortable, and even break out of your shell. Her advice stayed with me for months, and then one day out of the blue I received an email from the Women’s Forum at my job about an after-work opportunity to do professional improv. Exciting! I am a new member of the Women’s Forum so not only would it give me the opportunity to meet new people at my company but it would also allow me to test the waters with Improv.
My overall feedback on the event? I loved it.
Improv encouraged a supportive environment that allowed me to be myself. One of the first things we had to do was introduce ourselves to everyone in the room by walking up to them and finding interesting ways to say hello. This made us comfortable with one another and shattered the walls we tend to build in a work environment.
Our next task as a group was to stand in a circle and create a story that actually made sense, with everyone contributing one word; So the first person says Apples, the next person says Are, and the final person says Great. Thus, the sentence Apples-Are-Great forms. It was kind of like the game Telephone. People were not paying attention and adding in words that didn’t make sense, which highlighted that we have to really listen to one another in the workplace or else, you will miss out on valuable information and lose momentum.
In an interesting turn of events, the instructor asked us to get our cell phones and find a partner. Person A was supposed to tell a story about their morning. Person B was supposed to check their emails and do all the interesting things they could do on their cell phones while Person A was talking. I was Person A, talking about my morning, I shared how hard it was to get a seat on the train, the things I read while on the train, and how delicious my breakfast was. Person B, my partner, looked attentive, but she was checking her emails and doing a whole list of other things. When it was time for her to repeat my story, she missed all of the major details that I wanted her to catch. This exercise illustrated Radical Presence. When we talk to people we should try to be present, and give people our attention, no matter how good we “think” we are at multi-tasking. Cell phones are a distraction, and we may miss major details if we are on our phones checking emails and not fully listening to the conversation happening right in front of us.
One of the last activities we did was “Yes And.” Again with a partner, we had to pick a topic (of course I chose travel), and we had to talk about that topic with our partner, each of us taking turns by saying “Yes And”. So the conversation went something like “I love to travel,” my partner then said “Yes and I love to travel and take long flights,” Then I said, “Yes and I love to take long flights to Europe…” You get the idea.
However, the next part of the exercise was the “Yes But” portion; my partner would say something, still on the topic of travel and I would counter her, with “Yes but” for example, I proceeded to say “London is really cool” and then my partner said “Yes but it rains a lot” and then I said, “Yes but it rains in New York too” etc…Once the exercise was over we explained to the group the feeling we had when someone said “Yes And” vs. “Yes But”. It honestly felt better having someone add to my ideas and statements as opposed to negating it every second. It’s kind of like them saying what I have to say is not valid enough to be acknowledged. Our instructor encouraged us to be mindful of our words especially in the work setting and ended the class allowing us to reflect on the most valuable lessons we learned.
This experience was awesome. I realized a couple of things that I do that might hinder me as a professional. One of those things is eye contact. Sometimes my eyes are all over the place. Eye contact is so important especially in the workplace because it shows that you are secure and essentially illustrates your strength. Another takeaway was watching how I speak to people. I want to build them up not tear them down. I left the event feeling empowered. The climb up the corporate ladder is a long one, especially for someone like me who has no manual on navigating the corporate landscape. I am learning everything as I go. However, I am open to these situations, as strange as they may seem because it helps me to grow not only as a professional but an individual.
If you’re interested in this opportunity for your company and you’re based in the New York area feel free to reach out to Open Act:
Open Act seeks to level the playing field for students attending NYC’s most underserved schools by offering opportunities to develop leadership, community, and commitment through it’s innovative, long term, free after school theater programs. www.openact.org /+1-646-418-7088