You might think that acting is only for movie stars or people performing on stage. But think again. Learning a few acting skills, at least of the improvisational style, can help increase your confidence and improve the way you communicate with others, both of which can help to ensure a more effective job search.
The inspiration for this idea comes from Daniel Pink, who writes about it in his latest best–selling book, “To Sell is Human, The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.”
Pink studied improv in a workshop for executives presented by Cathy Salit, CEO of Performance of a Lifetime, in New York City. He wanted to see what he could learn from its performance techniques that would help people be better at selling both products and themselves.
Those familiar with improvisational theater, or improv as it is usually called, know that it is performed spontaneously without the use of scripts. Often the audience supplies the ideas. Improv actors work together in a collaborative style building scenes and stories back and forth, with one taking on where another left off.
Although improv may seem unstructured, beneath it all is a structure that makes it work, says Pink. And understanding that structure and how it works can benefit job seekers by teaching them how to present themselves more effectively and be better negotiators.
One of the basic tenants of improv is known as hearing offers. In hearing offers, actors truly listen to what the other person has to say, so they can build on it and carry the scene forward. Rather than listening “for” something with a predetermined expectation of what will be said, they’re actively listening to the other person.
Most of us are not particularly good listeners. While another person is talking, we’re just waiting for our turn to speak or planning in our minds what we will say next.
Amazing Silence, one of the exercises Pink practiced in the workshop, teaches people how to slow down and really listen to what other people are saying. Two people pair up, with one of them telling the other something that’s important to them, making eye contact throughout the exercise. The other person is expected to respond, but not until pausing for 15 seconds after the first person finishes what he has to say.
In this type of listening, participants are active and engaged, and create a sense of intimacy by the way they respond and the eye contact they make. They work together to carry the scene or situation forward, a skill that job seekers can develop, so they can really listen to what the interviewer has to say and work together with them to respond in a way that will move the discussion in a mutually positive direction.
Another improv technique, known as “yes and,” provides a new way of dealing with rejection. Instead of saying or thinking in terms of “no’s,” think in terms of “yes and’s” instead. Many people qualify their yeses with “yes but,” putting obstacles in their way.
For example, during the course of an interview for a job in sales, you might say, “Yes I can do the job, but I haven’t done anything like it for more than five years.” Instead, using the “yes and” approach, you could say, “Yes I can do the job, and I worked for three years in the paint department of Home Depot, helping people decide what they needed to refurbish and upgrade their homes.”
Instead of limiting your options, “yes and” expands opportunities. It’s a different mindset, and one that is worth learning how to create. You might be surprised at the results.
For more information about improv, visit http://performanceofalifetime.com
To learn more about Daniel Pink and the books he’s written, check out www.danpink.com
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