Rochester Women’s Network
From TV shows, improvisation (improv) is often used by a comedian to supply a quick rebuttal towards hecklers or naysayers. However, when I attended Rochester Women’s Network Summit Business Conference, I curiously chose the breakout session on the topic of improv. The presenter, Ms. Caitlin Drago from the McArdle Ramerman Center in Rochester, NY, demonstrated that improv is a great technique which can empower trust, especially during critical conversations that often result in communication break down and ill-will.
The attendees were paired up and were given a scenario. One lead with the problem and the other teammate responded with the problem statement and then added the word ‘AND…’ followed by another statement that was not necessarily congruent with the first.
It went like this:
Scenario: A teenager was confronting his Mother regarding curfew.
The teenager said ‘Mom, the curfew you have given me doesn’t work for my social life’.
The Mom replied ‘Yes, I understand that the curfew I have given you doesn’t work for your social life AND you need to be home early on school nights.
The teenager said ‘Yes, I understand that I need to be home early on school nights AND I need some time with my friends after spending all day in school.
The Mom said ‘Yes, I understand that you need more time with your school friends after spending all day in school, AND, I am tired by 10pm and need to go to bed knowing you are home and are OK.
The teenager said ‘Yes, I understand you are tired also, and you want to be in bed by 10pm AND thanks Mom for caring about me!
I would challenge each of us to continue critical conversations by reiterating the words from the speaker. This forces us to REALLY LISTEN. Resist the urge to use the word ‘BUT’, which tends to refute the value of the speaker’s ideas or sentiments. Instead, try inserting the word AND to link the conversation towards negotiation and understanding.
Those who participated in Ms. Drago’s presentation felt very awkward in the face-to-face confrontational scenarios. Many of us commented that our need to be ‘right’ or our need to ‘win’ the argument was sometimes overwhelming and definitely presented a challenge. In a competitive world, many have been trained to win at any cost. OUR ideas must be foremost and final. Caitlin helped each of us understand that improv can help us to say ‘yes’ in new and creative ways, rather than shutting our partner down through bullying or power trips. Improv’s goal is to increase trust, teamwork, listening skills, and creativity among people.
Need a way to build prime connections with significant others? Let your listening skills be sharpened through capture and repetition. Bridge both person’s statements with AND, and lastly, have ‘no buts about it’!
A symposium of Indonesian visitors were our guests this week at Rochester Women’s Network. The purpose of their visit was to gather information to improve their own business practices through dialog with American citizens and business organizations.
Not all spoke English. Two ‘prime-connectors’ served as interpreters. Each translator took turns at various intervals throughout the meeting. One interpreter took notes in an attempt to translate verbatim. She would stop to clarify and then relay the communication. The other, did not. The female interpreter asked one English speaker to ‘please slow down’ so she could be more effective. It was her partner’s turn to translate when a slang American term was referenced. The male interpreter kept on speaking into his machine, without hesitation. Apparently, our guests understood because laughter prevailed. When I asked the translator, how he decoded the funny phrase, the woman answered. Perhaps the male interpreter was more skilled or perhaps the woman was able to read his mind. Maybe she was a quicker responder. Maybe I had asked a very common question. Nevertheless, the woman said, “We work around slang”. But my question was, ‘How did you interpret that phrase?” I wanted to know verbatim. Another question was asked elsewhere, and so, we moved on. I never received the exact wording.
We all have times in our lives when we need an interpreter. I call these experiences ‘culture crossings’. ‘Culture crossings’ occur during those times when advice is needed outside of our own wheelhouse or we are facing a new challenge. We look for a ‘prime-connector’ who will interpret for us-to bridge the gap in our own understanding. Depending on our own experience, the skill-set of that interpreter is critical to our well-being, especially if we need details or an extensive plan. At times, we prefer to allow someone to read our minds and respond from their own experience.
Take a few mental notes as to how you receive information and how you interpret the steady stream of incoming messages. Who are your ‘prime-connectors’? How are both you and your ‘prime-connectors’ supplying feed-back? Become more aware of who is speaking for you. What they are saying and what is being interpreted?
The challenge is choosing the proper ‘prime-connector’ at critical junctions and also choosing to become the ‘prime-connector’ for others by slowing down the conversation and asking clarifying questions. Revisit conversations to correct areas of misunderstanding. Don’t move on until appropriate and sufficient understanding is reached.