I am an applied improviser. This means that I solve problems, teach difficult complex concepts, and coach others toward their goals, all by utilizing the foundations of improvisation. Improvisation is who I am, what I do, and is the core of how I treat others. It would only make sense that the things I am looking for in a relationship are the same things I would be looking for from an improv scene partner.
#1 – Acceptance
In improvisation, accepting the reality of our scene partner is the foundation of the trust necessary to play together. In improvisation, we have no idea what will be thrown at us or what we will discover. The same is true for our relationships. The idea that I will be accepted for exactly who I am in this moment and that I do not have to try to be something I am not or pretend to be something in order to gain favor is something that is a must in my relationships.
#2 – Listening
As improvisers, listening to understand, accept, and build is the core of our performances on stage. It doesn’t work well otherwise. In my relationships I seek out others who listen actively and are interested in building something together that would be bigger and better than what could be built on our own.
#3 – Alignment/Mutual Purpose
This is probably the most important part of a scene being improvised in front of an audience and also the most important for me in a relationship. We need to have a mutual purpose, even if we have different perspectives. Though we may not always agree on every element of a strategy or a tactic, we are always in alignment and seeking mutual purpose. If we seem to lose that mutual purpose at any given time, we recognize it and start the journey back to each other.
#4 – Heightening
In improvisation, heightening is taking something and making it more important to the story. In a relationship, it is vital to me that the other person is raising the stakes of my actions in order to accelerate us both toward our mutual purpose. Without heightening, we do not have the needed healthy tension that drives us into needed action.
#5 – Humor/Playfulness
As improvisers, we do not need every moment on stage to be funny, but we do need for the other person we are working with to have a sense of playfulness and a good sense of humor. We need them to have a sense of humor and playfulness about life, themselves, and the relationship itself. If we take the actions we are doing too seriously, we end up with just the action and not the relationship built from the actions. Our humanity must be present in our work and in our relationships, and humor combined with playfulness is a great aspect of what can make it happen.
What about you? What elements of a relationship do you look for when starting out on a new journey with someone?