Saturday, September 04, 2010

On Listening
Improv Life Lesson #375

Ft Tryon & GW Bridge
Ft. Tryon Park and the GW Bridge

I was cleaning my room this weekend and came across some notes I took after my first Level 1 Improv class last fall. (Almost a year ago!  C'est impossible!)  My teacher, during that first class, spoke about how its hard to really listen.  Most of us aren’t naturally good listeners.

Often, when we're supposed to be listening, many of us (especially those of us not uber-confident in our speaking abilities) (hand raised, over here) are actually planning out what to say next.

Or, if we're not rehearsing our next line, we've drifted elsewhere. While a friend continues to talk, our minds wander – we hear something that reminds us of something which leads to something else still – until all of a sudden we're racking our brains to remember the name of the actor who played Cousin Balki on Perfect Strangers. And so it goes until our friend finishes telling their tale of woe, and we struggle to make adequately sympathetic expressions while inwardly we’re cheering, “Aha! Bronson Pinchot! THAT was his name!”  Ever been there?

Point is: listening – truly, really listening - is hard.

But it’s essential. It’s essential to being a good friend, and it’s essential to doing good Improv. Listen and receive.  Don't rehearse or plan out - stay in the moment - be open and in tune to what is happening in front of you - allow yourself to be affected by what your scene partner is saying.

My teacher's lesson on listening made me realize, “Oh yeah, I need to work on this.” I'm often aware that listening (true, good, deep listening) is lacking in my life. I’ll go through phases where I do a lot of talking, a lot of discussing, re-hashing, and re-re-hashing. And sometimes we all have phases like that, sometimes we just need to talk it out.  But I've found that, for me, all that talking and output is not sustainable in the long run.  I end up talking on fumes because my listening tank has gone dry.

What the h-e-c-k is a listening tank? I don’t know. I’m just saying things.

See? I think I’ve proved my point. Enough talking. Let's listen up.

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