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The hardest job in comedy is being the straight person – the one who sets up their partner for all the great funny parts. It’s hard in terms of craft: Timing, cadence, etc. It’s even harder emotionally. It means having to let go of ego and making sure the spotlight goes to the partner.

It’s about pure support and it’s what makes improv so special. In improv, we all get to be the funny one and the straight person, because every teammate’s goal is to make the others look good. To serve our partners and the scene before serving ourselves. In doing so, we all get to shine!

If you read the post on Trust, you might remember the notion of ‘having your back.’ This creates a sense of connection, but it’s also a real tool improvisers have to have to perform together. It is about pure, unwavering support.

And, support is something I personally want there to be even more of in our workplaces.

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Gallup’s been tracking employee’s sense of support in the workplace for years. Unfortunately, this year marks the lowest score it’s had in decade, with only 24% feeling their organization is doing enough to support them. Not surprising given everything we’ve been through the past few years, but still, this is something that we need to pay attention to.

Feeling supported certainly creates engagement and a sense of belonging, but a culture built on support drives organizations. A metanalysis from over 70 studies showed that the main effects of support include:
•    Increased commitment
•    Improved job satisfaction and mood
•    Increased interest in work
•    Increased performance
•    Decreased psychological strain
•    Increased desire to remain working for the organization
•    Decreased withdrawal (including decreased lateness, absenteeism and turnover)


Improv LABS: Creating support through connection

What can ultimately help create a sense of support is creating real human connection. While creating a culture of support takes a bit of effort, it can start with simple steps. Here’s an improv exercise to help get started: Repeat. Reword. Support.

Honestly, this is an exercise that doesn’t even need to be in the context of improv. But, for the sake of understanding, here’s how it works: 
•    One teammate shares something. Anything. But, it’s most helpful if it’s an emotional statement.
•    The other teammate does one of three things (see if you can guess):

      - Repeats verbatim what their partner said

      - Rewords what their partner says – essentially saying the same thing but using different terminology

      - Supports what the partner says by offering insight into why their partner is sharing what they are sharing

•    Example:

      - Teammate A: I love taking my time eating cupcakes.

      - Teammate B (repeat): You love taking your time eating cupcakes.

      - Teammate B (reword): When you get to take your time eating cupcakes, you really enjoy them.

      - Teammate B (support): Taking time eating cupcakes lets you get lost in the moment and really savor every bite.

Again, we really don’t need to do this in the context of improv. We can do this in everyday conversations with our friends and family. At work, there are loads of opportunities! When our teammates confide in us. If we’re a manager, when a team member comes to us with a problem.


It may sound way too simple, but it’s amazing how even just repeating back what our teammates share with us can create a sense of being heard. And, being heard is a massive step to feeling supported. When we can up that and reword and support what our teammates share, it goes a level deeper. It not only says “I hear you” but also “I understand you.”

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