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by Darren Held

Wanna be a better friend? I can help. No, really. I have that kind of power.

Turns out, the characteristics that make a great friend are the same as those that make a great improvisor. I know you keep thinking I’ll run out of examples of how life and improv are the same. But no. I’m not the Queen of Information for nothing, peeps. Anyway, even though there’s no Intro to Being a Better Friend class, there are plenty of Held2gether Intro to Improv Comedy classes that can teach you all the skills you need to be someone’s BFF.

Even if you only want to be someone’s good friend or okay friend and not necessarily their best friend, improv can help. See, in improv we want our partners to make eye contact (during those brief moments when they’re not mesmerized by our awesome biceps), listen, agree, add information and of course, be committed. And I dunno about you, but those are the same traits I want in a friend. Naturally, good friends won’t agree with you if you’re being an idiot – say you insist that all people who believe in unicorns are insane. Well, that’s clearly not true, and a good friend will not agree with your premise. They will, however, agree with your right to be an idiot.

You may think that once you’ve learned these improv techniques, they will only apply while you’re doing improv. But the awesome thing about improv is that the skills you learn seep over into other areas of your life. That’s because you’re actually learning new ways of thinking and responding, and your brain doesn’t assume those new ways of thinking were only intended for improv scenes. So you’ll find yourself having a conversation with someone and actually listening to them, instead of making a list in your head of everything you need to buy at Trader Joe’s. You’ll realize that you are finding ways to agree with them and support their ideas, instead of defaulting to the tried-and-true, “Well, that’s a stupid idea. Nobody wants home fur coloring for their cats.” You’ll discover that you add information, contributing to the friendship by putting a little more of yourself into it, when you respond to the fur coloring idea with, “You know, maybe you could include a snippet of catnip in the box of fur coloring to attract more buyers.” All in all, you’ll see that you are more committed in your conversations, your work and, of course, your friendships.

All because you took an improv class. Which, in case I haven’t mentioned it, is a totally fun, safe and encouraging way to learn stuff anyway. I mean, there aren’t any textbooks or tests or angry nuns with rulers to worry about.

Well, maybe the last one.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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