"Uncomfortable..." | Improv Workshop in Chicago


By Greg Werstler

At a workshop last night, one of the participants said an exercise made her “uncomfortable”. Not in a dangerous or unwelcome way... And it wasn’t necessarily a bad feeling... it was just… different. 

Improvisers are okay with being uncomfortable. They’re creating a scene together and neither of them know exactly how it’s going to turn out. And they’re doing it in front of people that paid to see them do it. Uncomfortable! 

Many business professionals actively avoid situations that make them uncomfortable. We don’t talk about the big issue with the boss because we don’t like conflict. We avoid situations where we could possibly fail because we don’t want to be seen as incompetent. We fall into routines that provide us normality and comfort. This leads to problems festering and growing, to stagnation in our personal growth, and to the reinforcement of biases we carry from the past.
I believe people can (and must) learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

How do you get past the uncomfortable feeling in improv? 

Start by identifying it!

In the workshop, we discussed how to get past an uncomfortable situation. A participant shouted very simple and brilliant solution: “Name It!” Yes! Be honest, put the reason you are uncomfortable on the table for everyone to see. You may still feel uncomfortable, but by naming it, you steal some of the power that fear has over you and I think you’ll find others share your feeling and are happy to move past it with you.

And now is your first opportunity!...

Comment below with the thing that makes you the most uncomfortable and why it makes you uncomfortable. 

-> Name it here, and then name it in your professional life.  

Speaking of naming things, here’s a quick exercise you can do in your head or out loud to help you train your brain to be okay with being uncomfortable. 

Look at an object in the room and give that object a name that is not the object. So, you look at a doorknob and you name it “swimming pool”. Continue around the room looking at objects and calling them other names. Notice when you fall into a rut of using the same category of items (“swimming pool”, “diving board”, “life preserver”) or when you’re just using a part of something (“lamp” becomes “light bulb”) and try to break that pattern. The name of the game is speed and training your brain to be okay with dissonance.