In kindergarten children are often evaluated on how well they work with others. As adults it’s important to our growth to be willing to play and collaborate, to be friendly and generous, to be willing to share. Today this is called prosocial behavior, which is behavior that benefits others. We learn these behaviors like listening, helping, sharing, comforting, and cooperating mostly through observing them in others and then experiencing them for ourselves.
At Exact Communication we understand how prosocial behavior is key to connecting, and we use improvisation to teach this principle. There are two basic rules to improvisation: “Yes, and” and “Make your partner look good.” Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with “Yes, and” which is a positive way of saying yes to each moment and then actively adding to it. The second rule, “Make your partner look good” however, does not get nearly the attention and yet, it has prosocial behavior written all over it.
And here is how it does it: To make your partner look good you must take the focus off yourself and focus outward toward your partner. This does a few things. For you, it helps you to relax and get out of your own head. For the person you’re communicating with, it makes them feel heard, valued, understood, and part of the conversation. But it’s not easy and takes practice. It’s counter intuitive because we are so used to focusing on ourselves instead of who we are interacting with. And it works.
Try it yourself! Spend an hour, just one hour, where you focus on others, listening to what they are saying, what they need, what they are trying to accomplish, and then respond. Our guess is you’ll connect better, you’ll feel better, and you’ll look a lot smarter. Go for it. Make your partner look good.