Truly Listening in Improv
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Do you know how you greet people you pass on the street? Those kind of pleasantries you share when you only kind of know each other? You don't recall, do you? You just know it was some variation of "Hey, how's it goin'?" or "'sup?" or "Not much."
Have you ever responded to them and then realized as you walked away that they didn't ask how you're doing so saying, "Fine," didn't make much sense? They only said, "Hey."
This feels pretty common. We weren't really listening when they spoke, but we knew what kind of situation it was so we said the basic response. We weren't really paying attention.
Just like on the street we can pay too little attention in scenes. Someone says something during that crucial beginning of a scene, but we don't listen and give them a standard response.
It feels like a result of fear. We don't want to be affected, it's safer to keep a distance from people and their expectations. "If I just keep my head down and say something basic I can get through this."
This can happen for many reasons. We don't want to be vulnerable, we're afraid of messing up their idea, we don't feel comfortable making and expressing an emotional choice. These are just a few, but regardless of the reason we have to drop being disconnected. We have to be locked into the scene so that we can be available for what the scene calls for.
We have to take the risk to be vulnerable on stage so that we can be affected by what happens. That sounds daunting, but it can be as simple as three little steps.
Listen Really listen. What did they say? How did they say it? What was their tone of voice?
Absorb Let it sink in. Don't judge it immediately, but take note and observe what really happened. What did it feel like? How did it make you feel? Taking all of that in helps in being affected by it.
Interact Respond to what actually happened. You know what was said, how it was said, and what the moment feels like. You've taken it in and absorbed it. Now interact with it based on how it made you feel.