“The nature of improv comedy,” Kelvin tells me, “is that you react to what’s happening.”
“A lot of times when people see a comedy improv group do something, they say, ‘Wow! You guys must think really fast!’ “
“And the truth is, no, we’re not thinking at all. We’re just reacting.”
Kelvin was one of the most introverted guys out there before he got into improv comedy. He had so much social anxiety he couldn’t walk into a McDonalds and order a Cheeseburger.
Learning improv comedy helped him to become more spontaneous, to think less and to act more.
We all want to be spontaneous. We want to be fun, creative and witty as well. But social anxiety will kill that spontaneity.
I’ll be in a conversation with an attractive woman and sometimes it will pop into my head to say something stupid or fun.
At that point I’m left with a choice. I could either say it or not say it.
Most of the time now, I really try to go with that impulse. It’s an important part of being confident.
If something hits me, even if it’s fucking stupid and even if I regret it afterwards–I’m still cultivating that muscle of being spontaneous in putting something out there.
And sometimes I will regret it afterward. I think “Oh that was really embarrassing. Nobody laughed. Nobody liked what I said.”
But if it doesn’t work, I mentally reward myself. I say to myself, “Eric, you did fucking great! You’re learning and it doesn’t matter if it worked this time or next time. The important thing is that you did it.”
If I’m really, really inhibited, it will seem my mind is blank. But if I listen closely, I know that there will be a point where I feel the urge to take initiative again.
You can actually learn to become sensitive to your spontaneity. You can learn to listen closely to that urge that wants to have fun and be playful in every situation.
That inclination is already there. It’s just a matter of cultivating it, of becoming accepting of your own feelings as well as your surroundings.
Thinking Too Much
Social anxiety is a fear that forces us to be very careful in social situations.
Don’t take risks. Plan everything out. Think things through ten times before taking action. Anticipate problems and come up with solutions in advance.
But thinking can kill spontaneity. Kelvin talks more about his experience with Improv Comedy:
If we thought about what we’re doing, it would get all stilted and stiff and weird. It wouldn’t work.
A lot of times the funniest stuff I did when I was onstage. The stuff that just killed everyone was just something that came out of me.
I have no idea where it came from. It seemed like a natural thing to say at that point in time.
I just did it.
Whereas if I was not in the scene, offstage I might get an idea and think, ‘Oh, oh, I’ve got to get in the scene because I want to do this idea.’
I would go into the scene and do this idea and act like, ‘Tadah! Here’s my great, funny idea!’ And it would not be anywhere near as successful.
Sometimes, there would even be dead silence.
If you think too hard about what you’re saying, you get self conscious about it. Self consciousness is a big attraction killer with women.
I talk a lot about inhibition. The choice to take action is the foundation a confidence. Spontaneity qualifies one of the most important aspects of taking action: the timing.
It may be difficult at first for you to react instantly to that spontaneous urge.
You may be out with a group of friends. Maybe you aren’t used to speaking out in groups but you get an idea to say something.
Your first instinct will be to not say it. If you are consciously working on trying to be uninhibited, a few seconds later you force yourself to say it.
The longer you wait though, the more likely it is that what you have to say will come out stuttery and weak. Whereas if you say it right away, it will feel less contrived to both you and your friends.
You are better off saying it late than never. But the more you practice, the better you will get at taking action as soon as you get the urge.
It is the introvert inside us that makes us want to wait, bide our time, and plan out the perfect thing to say.
It is our fear that cripples us, casting doubt on that first inclination. The fear tells us we can never truly be ourselves.
But the faster you move, the less time there is for your inhibitive, fearful mind to convince you that it’s a bad idea to take action.
There are also ways of becoming physically spontaneous. We talked about the 3-Second Rule.
After you notice this attractive woman, the longer you wait to approach her, the more likely it is the interaction will go poorly.
In order to become more spontaneous, when I see a girl I will take action right away, even if I have a lot of anxiety. I may not even talk to her. I may just set myself walking in her direction.
I won’t creep her out by staring her down. I will just find an excuse to put myself somewhere in her vicinity. This gets my legs moving.
There is a lot of negative physical momentum associated with approach anxiety and this practice helps to counter that.
Another thing I’ll do is ask her for directions or the time or her opinion. If I’m in a pizzeria getting food and I’ll walk up and ask “How is the food here?”
Sometimes I’ll take it further.
I may start to tease and banter with her, say something like “Okay, the food better be good here or I’m coming to find you.” or “I am going to hire you as my professional food taster.”
But sometimes I’ll just do that first part. I’ll just open her and ask her for her directions or an opinion, just to do it, just to keep those knuckles cracking.
I can combine this and work my way up. If I go out to talk to a bunch of girls, the first few girls, I’ll just ask for directions.
The second girl, I’ll ask for directions and then banter with her.
Maybe then the next girl, I’ll ask for directions, joke with her and tease her and then I’ll introduce myself, hey my name is Eric, and then begin some conversation.
It’s a fun way to make this feel natural.
Planning vs. Spontaneity
There are, of course, two sides to this. Becoming spontaneous is a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
But if you have a lot of fear, one of the best things you can do is plan things out for yourself.
If it is so difficult for you to walk up to a woman in the first place, then trying to come up with things to say spontaneously may be near impossible.
Instead, you could plan out every word you will say to this woman from start to finish. (i.e. “Hello, I was just walking by, wanted to say hi. My name is Eric. How are you doing? Have a great day, Bye!”)
It’s a great thing to do if you are having trouble approaching in the first place.
If you have a lot of approach anxiety, putting pressure on yourself to be spontaneous and talk to attractive women whenever you see them may also be counter-productive.
If that is the case, you are better off carefully planning a once-a-day outing when you will approach a woman and not put pressure on yourself for the rest of the day.
When you are more relaxed approaching, being spontaneous allows you to fine tune your enjoyment with women.
Whether itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the timing or dropping the pre-planning, becoming spontaneous allows you to take off those training wheels and be yourself just a little bit more.