When learning how to become more charismatic, it is often suggested to learn a martial art, or tango, or do improv comedy. Â That recommendation is based on learning how to own the space around you and communicate your power via body language. Â However, there are some additional major charismatic qualities one can learn from the principles of improv. I talked with Comedian, Freelance Journalist, and Improver John Knefel about what aspects of improv would help you build charisma.
John — The basics of improv are trust and agreement — basically trust and “yes and-ing” — and a healthy dose of those two things will go a long way in increasing someone’s confidence.
[Derek — This can mean your own confidence, but also that of your audience/conversation partner. Â You are charismatic when others feel that you are a powerful person who thinks highly enough of them to help them. Learning how to make other people look good to the point where they can trust you will do so is a key pat of improv. When you say “Yes….and ___”, instead of using the negative “but ___” youÂ instantlyÂ ally yourself with the speaker and begin building an idea together. Â This works especially well in social situations where you are meeting people for the first time.]
John — Improv requires you to be willing to look like a buffoon in front of people — classmates, if not an actual audience — but having the rest of the group up there to support you is an amazing feeling. There’s a certain kind of courage that comes from looking like a fool but being made to feel awesome while you do it.
[Derek — Knowing that you have already said and done the stupidest things will mean that Â even if you misspeak or stumble during a important moment, you can move right past that without missing a beat. Â Acting like a buffoon also allows you to explore and test what qualities about yourself you like to showcase, and what qualities people like. Learning charisma is essentially about becoming a better version of yourself, one that you can feel good about.]
All that said, there are limits to what improv can do, and I think a lot of people in corporate jobs take improv to improve their public speaking skills at meetings and such. I think it can do that, but not if that’s your primary goal. If you actually want improv to change you, you need to put years and years into it. It isn’t a magic bullet that will make your office meetings better after a few week course.
[Derek — The biggest long term changes come from being able to access that quick witted, funny, confident version of yourself whenever you need to. Â Even if you are not doing improv regularly, you can practice saying “yes, and…” You can test what you say to people and push the limits of the character you are playing in various social situation. Â You can also create that environment for other people — encourage them to take risks and let them know you will pay attention support them. So for starters, practice these three things: Being present in the moment, push your limits on being comfortable in a variety of situations, and say “Yes, and…” to build a conversation together.]