I’m Totally Listening. I Promise.

I’m Totally Listening. I Promise.

Most of you know that I’m extremely active in the world of Improvisational (improv) theater. Improv is often described as accepting the unknown gracefully. Although I’m a professionally trained improviser that teaches and coaches improv in Denver, I still have things I’m constantly working on. And one of those things is getting better at listening.

One of my flaws when I’m doing improv scenes is I’m not fully listening to my scene partner because I’m thinking about what I want to say or what’s next on my agenda that I’m trying push. This is a huge no-no in improv. And as I do improv more and more I find myself getting better at listening but I still have to remind myself how it’s beyond important to have incredible listening skills.

Why is it important Brogan? And what does listening in improv have to do with me? Listening is how we build relationships with people. From a made-up relationship on stage, to a relationship with a co-worker or boss, to even a relationship built while counseling a student, it all comes down to listening. When we are not listening we are losing details and important facts that put up barriers to those relationships. Whoa, hold the phone Brogan, I don’t want multiple relationships!! The term “relationship” in the world of improv is used to describe how you relate to other people and the bonds you do and don’t make with them. Building relationships within a work environment turns you into an approachable and trusted employee, co-worker, supervisor, counselor, human being, etc.

Okay, but how do we listen more? And how do we improve our listening?!

It first starts with getting rid of assumptions. I catch myself thinking that I already know what the student is trying to ask me, during a counseling appointment, which causes me to not listen as thoroughly as I should be. Don’t assume you always know the answer.

Second, make an honest effort to care about what is being said to you because then your response will matter more. Trust me, it takes far less energy to stay positive and care then it does to be negative and agro. Care more.

Third, your nonverbal communication is saying way more than what is coming out of your mouth. Have great eye contact, don’t frown, nod your head, and point your body towards the person you are speaking with. Be aware of your body language.

If all else fails, resort to the “bread and butter” of improv, which is known as “yes, and.” Acknowledge that person’s statement (yes) and then add something to that statement (and). Yes: “I understand you want to accept more loan funding.” And: “I can walk you through the steps to accepting additional funds and give you some information on other types of aid, such as scholarships.”

I love talking about improv almost as much as I love performing improv. So please feel free to email me if you want to chat about how other improv tools can help improve your personal and/or work life! AND if you want to listen to me talk about improv, I just recently was a guest on a podcast! https://www.bovinemetropolis.com/podcast
High Fives and Hugs,

Erin “Brogs” Brogan
Financial Aid Counselor
MSU Denver
CAFAA Blog Editor
Captain of Awesomeness and All Cool Things