The Tina Fey Method: 4 Ways Improvisation Can Improve Your Life

Improv-and-Your-Career Tina Fey has it all: a hit TV show, a bestselling book, a supportive family and a flourishing career. Plus, she just earned rave reviews as the host of Sunday night’s Golden Globes along with pal Amy Poehler.

How does she do it? She credits improvisation. In her book Bossypants, she discusses how the rules she learned at improv school Second City helped her succeed both on stage and off.

As an actress, I struggle daily with confidence and insecurities. Improvising has helped me get out of my own head and access deeper parts of myself. In life, we are constantly editing ourselves and second-guessing our ideas in an attempt to be perfect. Improvisation dares us to trust our instincts and appreciate others and what they bring to the table. Implement these four basic improvisation rules into your everyday life and I guarantee you’ll see a difference.

1. You must agree. This doesn’t mean everyone has to get along, but it means you must agree on the given set of circumstances. For instance, if I say, “Wow, it’s great to be on the beach!” and you say, “We aren’t on the beach stupid, we are on the ski slope,” then the improv scene is dead. But if you say, “I can’t wait to get in the water, I hope it’s not too cold,” then we have a scene. We have agreed that this stage is now a sandy beach and we can keep moving forward.

I don’t recommend you agree with everyone in your life, but I challenge you to come from a place of “yes” and keep an open mind. Try to understand where others are coming from before discrediting them as “crazy” or “stupid.” “No” should be a last resort, and respect what others create.

2. “Yes” isn’t enough, you must “yes, and…” Add to the discussion. In the example above, the second person did not just say, “Yes we’re at the beach,” she said, “I can’t wait to get in the water, I hope it’s not too cold.” This statement adds value to the scene. Now the audience knows it’s cold and that we plan to enjoy the ocean as opposed to looking for gold or taking a yoga class.

To me, this rule challenges you to contribute. Whether you are developing an ad campaign or deciding where to eat dinner, put your neck out there, give your thoughts and have a say. Two minds are always better than one.

3. Make statements. Have confidence. When you say something, mean it and stand behind it. How convincing would this proposal be in an improv scene: “I love you? I want you to marry me? I think I want to spend the rest of my life with you?” Let’s just say if he said that to me, he would not be putting a ring on it!

If you have something to say, don’t be apologetic, don’t be shy, don’t second-guess yourself, be confident.

Because at the end of the day….

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