Use improv to improve listening skills

Most improv performers could tell you about this crucial rule of great improv: You’ve got to listen to your scene partner. Otherwise, you may miss an important cue or the opportunity to collaborate on a creative idea.

It’s the same in the workplace.

Marcie, an admin who works for a utility company, recently took over a committee that organizes company gatherings. Because committee members struggle to truly listen and often talk over one another, she felt a group exercise would help.

Here’s an improv activity that’s worth a try from Business Improv by Val Gee and Sarah Gee. It requires participants to listen to the end of what other participants are saying. Because it’s short, you can do it at the start of a meeting. Steps:

1. Have participants pair up.

Tough Talks D

2.  Ask participants to hold a ­conversation, talking about anything they’d like. They must start each of their sentences with the last word their partner just said. Example:

Person A: It’s a great day to have a meeting with everyone.

Person B: Everyone … here is awake, which is a good thing.

Person A: Thing … is I was not expecting to do this exercise.

When the group is done, ask a few questions to guide them to the right conclusions:

  • What did you have to do to make this exercise work?
  • Did this listening activity show the importance of not immediately answering but actively listening to understand?
  • What did this activity have to do with actively listening to understand?
  • What actions could you take to remind yourself to be an active listener?