I am one of those people who ends up with my foot in my mouth because I don’t often follow this sage advice from dear old mom.  However, I’m also considered a quick wit, saying things that delightfully surprise even me. The concept of “think before you speak” is, in theory, a good one. Taking a moment to process the situation and playing over several possible outcomes can certainly lead to a more civilized conversation. A careful and politically correct response that is chosen tenderly, so as not to appear foolish, or hurtful. I won’t argue that across many a political and operating table, I want the very people who are in charge of my well-being, take their time in their thought process.

But in day to day practice, this improviser rarely thinks twice about…thinking twice.

As I teach in my improv workshops, the last place you want to be is in your head. If you’re not in your head then chances are you’re in your body and instinct is faster than reason! With second guesses and rational internal discussion, our instinct has been pushed aside time and time again, and yet, our instincts are rarely wrong, if ever. It resides in our bodies, waiting for those glorious moments when our inhibitions are low, our guard is down, and our brains have shut off. While in a conversation, why in the world would we play out half of it in our heads? Ever think hours, even days later, of the perfect comeback for a mean quip from some schmuck? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have just opened your mouth and said….well you didn’t. You were too busy in your head.

In my improv classes, I show the participants the ease in which to stop thinking and start reacting. In the game “Freeze”, where two people are in the centre of a group and any of the observers can yell “freeze!” which, you guessed it, forces the two in the centre to freeze in whatever position they are caught in and the one who has yelled “freeze” runs in, taps out one of the original performers and, taking that exact position, changes the reality of the scene. For example, two people could be hanging up clothes on a clothes line, talking about their husbands when “freeze” is yelled and while one person is frozen, bent over, and the other has their hands and eyes raised above their heads, the person who has yelled “freeze” taps out the person with their hands raised and says “Mr. Johnson this x-ray shows that you, have in fact put your money in a…safe place” at which point the person bent over now knows who they are, where they are, and even a bit of information on their personality so they can respond accordingly, “Thank goodness! I couldn’t remember where I had stashed my retirement money!”  Now, if all the people on the outside of the circle were more concerned with coming up with the funniest scenario possible or what that position could develop into and therefore started “thinking”, the person bent over could just as easily straighten up and pick up her basket and walk off….the moment has passed!

How many moments have passed you by because you weren’t spontaneous? Yes, it is risky if we don’t  “think before we speak” but here’s another great saying: “No risk, no reward”.

About the Author

Stephanie Herrera is a comedian, writer, producer, teacher, singer, actor, mother of 4, and shallow philosopher. She runs the Durham Improv & Acting Studio in Oshawa, Canada, is a professor at Durham and Fleming Colleges, and is an award winning performer.  www.durhamimprov.com / www.stephanieherrera.com / info@durhamimprov.com / (647) 899-3342  Durham Improv Group and Business pages can be found on Facebook and follow @durhamimprov & @antimommy