You've probably never considered yourself to be an improv actor. 

Every day you are improvising, responding, making decisions and playing roles as a manager, member of a team, friend, parent, spouse, sibling. You are definitely an improv actor.

Beyond being funny and entertaining, improv works because there are rules. The rules create an environment that prevents  conflict and communication blocks. They set up the actors to use the moment, their intuition and their creative wisdom to perform on the spot.

You can become an effective communicator when you set up rules for yourself and then allow your creative wisdom to intuition to guide you. Often this leads to more empathy and better listening.

It's not surprising that the NYPD is starting to use improv to enhance its ability to develop empathy in tough situations.

Here are five basic rules of improv that you can implement today to become a better communicator:

1. Say 'Yes, and...' and Don't Deny

Denial is the number one reason why communication is blocked and why scenes go bad. Even if you disagree with the person, you can be inclusive of their statement by saying "yes, and..." 

It's very common to write and say 'however' or 'but' in your communication. Instead, try using 'and' to create two separate statements without any negative language.

Here's an example: 

We have a no-refund policy. But we can offer you an exchange for your order.


We have a no-refund policy and we want to make sure every customer is satisfied with their order. We can offer you an exchange for your order.

Sometimes when you feel you really need to put a 'but' or 'however' in your communication, it means you often need to end the statement and start another statement.

2. Be Open and Add New Information

After you say, 'yes, and..,' you need to add new information to move things forward.

See how you can create a back-and-forth dance with the person you are talking to. The new information should clarify, create and move a story forward.

Here's an example:

Jill: I am going to the market today for protein bars.

Bob: That's great.


Jill: I am going to the market today for protein bars.

Bob: That's great. I recently bought LaraBars from Thrive Market for less than Whole Foods and I really enjoy them. They have a great variety of flavors to choose from.

When you offer new information it creates a story that keeps moving forward. It offers up an opportunity for both people to learn more about each other and the world around them with curiosity and empathy.

3. Be Specific and Provide Details

When you're communicating, specificity allows people to understand your position. Provide as much detail around your statement as possible. Specificity removes assumptions that can be made, which can in turn lead to miscommunication. 

When you ask questions, ask specific questions and not open-ended questions. For example: 'How's your morning going today?' is better than 'How are you?'

Being specific also alleviates the other person from having to carry the responsibility of discovering you and the information you are trying to relay. 

Here's an example:

Meet me at my house for lunch.


Meet me at my house at 12 p.m. for lunch. Parking is available on the street and when you arrive, feel free to call me if you cannot find my name on the intercom. There will be three others joining us for lunch. We'll be serving fish and a vegetarian option.

4. Allow Yourself to Be Emotionally Altered

When you're present to the other person and yourself in the moment, you are able to feel your emotional reactions as they arise. Expressing your feelings allows for change, humor, connection, authenticity and ultimately a journey together in the story you're both creating through your conversation. 

Being present and connected to your expression of feelings gives life to the mundane.

Here's an example:

Jill: I will see you at the conference room at 1 p.m. for our presentation.

Bob: See you then.


Jill: I will see you at the conference room at 1 p.m. for our presentation.

Bob: Wonderful. I've been antsy for this presentation all week. There's a lot at stake for us and I really want it to go well. Can we meet five minutes early to connect beforehand and be on the same page? 

5. Trust and Support Your Partner

Often when you think of trust, you think of trusting another. The real trust it the trust you have for yourself to deliver, to perform, to express your feelings, to be emotionally altered and to survive and thrive in the process.

Trust yourself.

Then, support your partner. Making your partner look good, elevating their story by using the first four skills helps elevate you both.