November 3, 2016

Why Tina Fey is my Life Coach.

acting, comedy, improv

It’s not just because she’s a bossy pants. It’s because she taught me how to interact more creatively with the world and other people—especially the difficult people.

Tina believes you can change your life with her Rules of Improvisation.

Wait! Before you bolt, I’m not talking about joining a comedy improv group. Instead I’m proposing improvised living. See how Tina’s rules can improve interactions with your sweetheart, coworkers, family—and your frenemy.

Four Rules for Improvised Living:

Rule 1: Agree.

Always agree and say “yes.” Respect what your partner has created and start from an open-minded place.

This rule doesn’t mean saying yes to everything in your life or being fake or pretending you’re happy when you aren’t. Instead, you’re staying aware and taking responsibility for the impact you have on others. Saying yes—if only in your head—is a relationship builder and can proactively move the conversation in a new direction. You can say yes to the person and still say no to the idea.

For example: If a coaching client says to me, “I’m going to be fired”—and I say “No you aren’t,” then I’m an as*hat. Saying yes doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with what is being said. Instead I’m acknowledging that the statement is true for the other person. Saying no can be a rejection or create a block in the conversation. By agreeing with the reality established by the other person, I maintain the connection between us.

This rule also requires active listening, which means that all of my attention is on the other person. When someone is talking, we’re usually jumping to conclusions and preparing our response. Focusing on the reality that is created helps me to be in the moment and respond to what is really being said.

Rule 2: Don’t just say yes; say “yes and”. 

Agree and then add something of your own.

Here’s how this works. A client of mine was recently pulled away from home due to a family emergency. As a result, her sweetheart is handling more of the childcare. He made the comment, “I’m now a stay-at-home dad.” and my client said, “Don’t say that!”

An improvised response might be, “Yes, and I’m grateful.”

This may not be easy in the red-hot moment. However, “yes and” may help the dad to feel heard and minimize any tension between the two of them. Improv is designed to keep things positive and make the other person look good. If both people feel validated, it can be much easier to talk through the tough stuff.

Rule 3: Make statements.

Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.

As Tina says, “We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag.”

This rule challenges me to step up and contribute. When I feel super bratty about what someone said or did, it’s so damn easy for my reflexes to take over. And typically my reflexes have a fourth grade mentality.

The rule of making statements can be particularly difficult if you’re curious, like to ask clarifying questions, or are an obstacles expert.

To keep my interactions productive (and avoid annoying the other person), I slow my response way down. I can then notice my reflexive tendencies and sidestep that fourth grade pothole. By taking a beat, I can find another response that’s more solution-oriented.

Improv shifts my thinking to a more creative and collaborative place. Though my reaction time may be slower, I’m bringing more consciousness and intention to what I say.

Rule 4: There are no mistakes, only opportunities.

As a coach, I usually don’t know what my clients are going to bring to our meetings. This reality was tough for me in the beginning. I’m a planner, dammit! And there was nothing I could do to prepare for a client meeting. Although I had knowledge and experience, I couldn’t anticipate what precisely would be needed.

I quickly learned to get out of my own head by focusing on the client—and this has kept me from editing and second-guessing the coaching process. If I think things need to go a certain way, I could miss the right opportunities.

Improvised living pushes me to stay present, agile and trust my instincts. Not only is this fun and freeing for me, it’s actually the sweet spot where transformation happens for clients.

Coach Tina and I are asking you to consider doing the exact opposite of what you normally do. Remember how it worked for George Costanza ? Seriously though, imagine your relationships, workplace and your world if everyone said yes more often.

If things aren’t going the way you’d like, try these magic words and see what happens.


Author: Wendy Kranz

Images: Flickr/Jason Brennan ; Flickr/starmanseries

Editor: Erin Lawson

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Wendy Kranz