Listen to the podcast version of this article below or wherever you find podcasts.
One Word Suggestion: Panic.
Welcome to One Word Suggestion.
Most people think improv is just for comedy or jazz music. But, really, it’s a tool for life. For each article in this series I use a single word, suggested by you, as a leaping off point to explore how having an improvisational mindset will help you perform at a higher level, both personally and professionally, whether you have a career on or off the stage.
We’ve all probably experienced panic at some stage in our life. And the first thing to do if you start to panic – in any situation – is to just breathe.
Dionna Griffin-Irons, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at The Second City says:
“Panic, like the kind that creeps in right before you’re about to perform in front of a huge audience (or your boss), happens when we get too in our heads.
And the result of that is we stop breathing, either as deeply as we should or, in some cases, altogether.
What I’ve learned is that, if you can, just get your breath back; that will awaken the nervous system and, therefore, your brain. Do that and you’ll be back to thinking, ‘I got this’ again in no time.”
So yeah, breathing is important. The second thing to do is move your body. Some teachers will tell you that if you’re panicking it’s because you’re stuck in your head. I’ve even seen teachers shout “Don’t be in your head!” which, guess what, puts you right in your head.
The way out is to use your body. If you get stuck start moving. Use your physicality to buy time or to find something to say.
The third thing to try is taking some time. Take a second to accept your reality before reacting to it. Move fast, but think slow.
Even if your partners or colleagues are playing or working fast, Take ten seconds to figure out what’s going on.
Give yourself that gift.
And remember, the pauses in your head are always longer to you than they are to an audience.
Another thing you can try if you’re stuck in a scene specifically is to look for answers. Not knowing what’s going on in a scene means someone needs to declare something – usually who, what or where.
Don’t confuse silence for a lack of dialogue. Pay attention to the physicality. A tapping foot can say more than words.
Jonathan Pitts taught me that if you’re on stage freaking out and don’t know what to do or say, look your scene partner in the eyes. The answer is there.
His other suggestion is to ask yourself questions like: why is this happening? How long have we known each other? How many times has this happened before? Is this the first, tenth or 100th time your scene partner’s character has said this?
Remember: No one person can discover the whole scene. You have to explore and find the why of your scene together.
And if you’re really lost, it’s OK to ask your scene partner for more information or simply say “I’m sorry I don’t know what you mean.” Remember that playing to the top of your intelligence means responding authentically on stage as you would in real life.
And lastly, learn to accept the worst. As Dale Carnegie wrote in his famous book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” if you can accept the worst case scenario, and get comfortable with that, then anything else that happens is probably gonna be OK.
But mainly, just breathe.
If you want to suggest a word for next week, or add your perspective, drop me a note in the comments or in a review. I’m making one of these every week, for a year, so definitely subscribe, like, share, and all that jazz.
Or better yet, listen to the podcast.
And in the meantime, if you’re interested in improv for personal growth, professional achievement, or just for fun, my suggestion is to get yourself into an improv class or book a corporate training workshop for your team.
You can learn all about PowerProv’s programs at powerprov.com.au
About One Word Suggestion
The One Word Suggestion series is your personal toolbox full of ways to help you use the power of improvisation to craft a more mindful and meaningful existence. Available as articles, a podcast, and soon, a book filled with powerful exercises for teams.
The One Word Suggestion Podcast with Eran Thomson
In each 3-minute episode, Eran uses a single word, suggested by listeners, as a leaping off point to explore how developing an improvisational mindset will help you perform at a higher level personally and professionally.
Whether you aspire to be better on stage or on the job, this quick hit of improv inspiration is sure to bring you some insights, perspective, and joy.
- 🎧 Listen now on Google, Apple, Spotify or wherever you find podcasts.
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Like what you hear? Listen to Eran’s guest appearances on other people’s podcasts, or invite him to speak at your next event.
Learn about the best improv training for teams at PowerProv.
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