Communicating with each other. It’s something we all have to do, and it’s something that has a massive impact on your success in business. Ineffective communication can affect leadership, creativity, sales, and connecting with clients. When it comes to improving communication skills, Corporate America has come across an unlikely resource: improv comedy!
My guest today is no stranger to improv. She is comedienne Tracy Locke, the professional warm up comedienne for the Mel Robbins show. Tracy is also the co-owner of Productively Funny, a training company that incorporates improv comedy into corporate training workshops. They work with businesses in need of support with improving communication skills, and they use humor to do it.
Learning to Love Improv
Being funny was always part of Tracy’s life. It wasn’t until she started her first job out of college that she learned she could make money from her humor.
Listen at 4:40 to hear Tracy’s story. She graduated with a degree in Communications before moving to Denver to be a reporter, where she covered many serious local stories. In between reports, she would make jokes with her coworkers, who told her that she was in the wrong profession. A friend was taking early improv classes with UCB (including some with SNL comedienne Amy Poehler). Once Tracy’s company moved her to New York City, she also began taking the classes, where she quickly fell in love with the practice.
What is Improv Comedy?
Many people hear “improv” and equate it with standup comedy. At 8:24, Tracy explains the difference between the two styles. Improv isn’t about “being funny” as much as it is about listening and adding to the scene. You can only make your partners look good if you listen. If you’re willing to say yes and then add to what’s happening, it can make a major difference in your life.
Being in the Moment
Improv is all about being in the moment. The practice makes you slow down and pay attention to what’s happening around you. Listen at 10:35 where Tracy talks about sharing her love of improv with special needs kids. The children she taught had no problem interacting with each other and staying in the moment.
The Most Common Communication Issues
What are some of the most common issues that businesses have? At 14:23, Tracy discusses how improving communication skills often comes down to addressing multi-generational workspaces. The advent of technology is something that many do not think about, yet it affects how we interact with each other. Different generations interact in different ways, and it can impact how a company functions.
Having Fun in Training
How would Tracy approach teaching a phone-dependent individual that his or her actions are disrespectful? At 17:25, Tracy discusses how a typical training goes. In many cases, role reversal is the most effective improv training exercise. Simply switching roles opens eyes on both sides, allowing the two parties to discuss communication issues in a fun and open setting.
The Challenge of Multiculturalism
Technology and a melting pot society has made it possible for us to work and interact with people from every culture. Listen at 20:45 where Tracy details how different cultures bring a different set of challenges to the communication game.
An example of these differences is in Asian culture. In many business atmospheres, eye contact and speaking directly to someone is standard. However, these communication practices are considered aggressive in Asian countries. Indian culture has different forms of “yes,” with one meaning “I understand” and another meaning “I comply.” These subtle differences have a huge impact on communication. Productively Funny has several different exercises that address challenges.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Tracy, where we discuss one of the most common problems with communication in our society: we’re all talking over each other!
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