From Vince Vaughn’s quote (above image) about listening when improvising –
staying true to your character, who you are
discovering a different direction
– it is my observation (and experience) that these four things also happen to varying degrees in the workspace. In fact, here is Vaughn’s quote when replacing the words improvising with interacting in a workspace and scene with workspace –
The main thing about interacting in a workspace is listening so if something happens that wasn’t expected and you know your character, you know what has to happen in the workspace, you can react to that in a way that is honest and it might take you in a different direction to go the same place.
(plagiarizing-ish from V. Vaughn)
About this post
As a follow-up to Feedback – As Improvisers, As Workspace Colleagues , for which listening is an important skill for receiving and giving feedback, this post presents –
- my approach and practice of listening from the context of a performing and practicing improviser
- and a short video by Paul Vaillancourt (on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram), an improviser and instructor, who provides his The Four Step Process, as part of his series of Improv Tips.
As a specialty coach for An Improv Mindset in the Workspace, trained to help people change behaviors and easily develop habits, I understand how to translate improv practices and philosophies for use in a non-performance context – specifically, for the traditional workspace.
In a follow-up post, I will include an opportunity to be a habit detective for listening, e.g., observing, gathering information, speculating on other practices for listening. For now, consider the following for listening in the workspace.
Simply Listening, Listening Simply
One of the key practices of every improviser is listening. I shared in Feedback that workspace interactions are not too different from the relationship-based interactions between two improvisers performing a scene. Listening is not only important for performing improvisers but also for anyone involved in workspace interactions among peers, management, customers, community stakeholders, shareholders, and competitors.
As an improviser, I practice making the four choices in progression, while listening to my scene partner –
Choosing to hear, then understand, then react, and then respond serves as the foundation for exercising one’s listening muscle. As an improviser, what I co-create in an on-stage, performance-based scene with my scene partner is contingent upon my listening skills.
Here is an improviser Paul Vaillancourt’s The Four Step Process – Improv Tip #3, which addresses how to listen better and listen with a purpose.
What did they say? What were the words – literally – that they said?
What do I think that means?
How do I think and feel about what they just said?
What am I going to say and do about that?
(This post is a stand-alone post specific to listening and separate from the two improv tips Vaillancourt references in his video – What They Just Said – Improv Tip #2 and Playing Paranoid #1.)
Listening with An Improv Mindset in the Workspace
Workspace interactions are not too different from the relationship-based interactions between two improvisers performing a scene. How does listening as an improviser – hear, understand, react, respond – translate for those in the workspace? Consider this approach.
Did I hear (physically) what was said?
Hear. If not, be honest. You can say that you did not hear what was stated and that would like the person to repeat what was stated. In fact, how often do you ask (and care) to acknowledge what you heard?
Do I understand what I heard?
Understand. If not, take a breath, ask questions, and check-in. You can ask for clarifications. You can check-in to confirm your understanding, state what you understood, and if you would like, include your interpretation of what was stated. Likewise, how often do you ask (and care) to make sure you understood what was said, as well as what was intended to be heard?
What is my reaction – physically, emotionally, intellectually – to what I heard?
React. Be your own research scientist or detective. Start collecting data about yourself. Be self-aware. Do you have a physical tell, make a sound, start processing what you are going to say, check-out, or some other reaction or combination of reactions? Does your reaction change depending on the environment?
Subtext. Something to be aware of – subtext. In a performance context, subtext is the underlying meaning created by the speaker, whose manner of speaking may be conveying an additional meaning of what was spoken. In a non-performance context, such as the workspace, subtext also exists. (For this post, subtext is not addressed.)
Which communication option(s) will I use?
Respond. It is your turn to interact. Traditional approaches for responding include verbal responses, written responses (electronic, old school pen to paper), sign language responses, and in some cases (for whatever reasons) no responses. And for the first three approaches, the timing of responses can differ from choosing an on-the-spot, immediate response to choosing a response after some time has passed.
That said, how do people in your world listen to each other? What are your observations and experiences? As a non-improviser, I would love to know the following –
What qualities do you think make one person a better listener than another? Is listening a habit that you actively practice? If so, what practice(s) do you have? If not, what would you like to practice?
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I am gathering and sharing my thoughts as I evolve ANTHROCUBEOLOGY – INSPIRED by IMPROV, a CATALYST for WORKSPACE CULTURAL SHIFTS through TINY CHANGES.
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