May Improv of the Month for Seacoast Business Leaders – Decrease Stress with The Danish Clap!

The Danish Clap is a fun activity that you can use to liven up a meeting or close one on a positive note, promote situational awareness, and learn about subtle leadership styles. In May’s Improv of the Month, we’ll use it to inspire laughter and promote positive relationships among your hardworking staff. Even spending 5 minutes on this activity will be enough to have a positive effect!

It is easier to show than describe and here are several videos for you.

First, in this brief video you’ll see me teaching it to students at the Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab – PILL. First in pairs and then in triads. Sometimes people groan a little in the beginning. Try to let that be and trust that lots of laughter and connections will emerge.

The value of holding space and creating the opportunity for a shared experience that is joyful will be felt on a visceral level! And who knows, there may be some eager staff who will become the Danish Clapping experts at your organization!

Feedback from colleagues using the activity is affirming!

As a facilitator, I can sense moments where the energy of the group begins to flag after so much talking and listening. That’s when I like to bring out the Danish Clap exercise I learned from Beth and added to my tool box of offerings, for any group that is game.

I have found it is easy to teach. It immediately gets people on their feet, interacting, moving, and laughing spontaneously. The experience feeds a renewed energy to the rest of the meeting and builds a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. Beth Tener
Principal New Directions Collaborative

Doing the Danish Clap Almost Anywhere!

I first learned of the Danish Clap from the Honorable Oluwadamilola Apotieri, an applied improv expert from Nigeria who has worked with nurses, refugees, and military personnel.

We had an opportunity to meet at South Station in Boston last Fall. As you will see in this 17 second example, he won!

And finally in this demo from the Copenhagen Game Collective, you’ll enjoy a more competitive version and demo with four participants! Watch them increase speed towards the end.

Applied Improv

In the course of day to day work challenges, a little fun with the Danish Clap may be just what your staff needs to exhale, destress, connect, and be their best at work.

This “Improv of the Month for Business Visionaries ” series is designed to help leaders who are willing to dip their toes into improv teaching with simple activities that contribute to important outcomes. If you’d like more comprehensive support please check out this summer class for leaders and teachers or reach out to beth@bethboynton.com! Happy Clapping! 🙂

P.S. Want another fun way to Work Smarter – Together?

My friend, colleague, and certified mindfulness teacher, Liz Korabek-Emerson and I are offering an open house to business leaders on 6/25/2019 at the Northeast Credit Union in Portsmouth. We will be demonstrating our Fiercely Human Workshops as a new way to kick-off conferences, retreats strategic planning sessions! Want a fun way to work smarter – together?

Beth teaching improv with health risk managers

February Improv for Business Visionaries – “Radical Acceptance”!

Improv of the Month Series

As discussed in the introduction to this series, integrating improv activities into your day to day work can be part of an organizational development effort to boost to morale, improve communication skills, build positive relationships and cultures. This month we’ll explore an incredibly simple activity called “Radical Acceptance” which is also called “3 Things” (Not to be confused with “5 Things” which was January’s Improv of the Month).  Please take a few minutes to review the introduction to learn more about setting up your process. Also note, I have added an addendum so this activity can by used by teachers of any subject at grades 3 and up! 🙂

“Radical Acceptance” or “3 Things”

You’ll see, the more you get into Medical Improv or  Applied Improv that instructors often tweak activities and names while trying our best to cite originators.  

I first I learned this activity from Jude Treder-Wolff in a workshop on managing change and often teach “Radical Acceptance” as a first improv activity in my workshops. It is a great way to create emotional safety and demonstrate how affirming and easy improv can be. As you read through the teaching steps, resist the urge to dismiss it because it is so simple.  I’ve had seen huge grins on people who don’t normally speak up and one young man shared that he brought it back to his bachelor’s party and his friends all loved it!  So if you want to engage staff, build a spirit of collaboration, and promote assertiveness, this activity will help.

How to teach”Radical Acceptance”

  1. Have up to 12 people get in a circle.
  2. Choose a category that all people can relate to. (Comfort foods, fruit, anything to do with weather, or something your business team might be familiar with.)
  3. Explain that each person will have a turn naming 3 things in the category and the group’s job is to shout “Yes” with more and more enthusiasm after each one.

It will look something like this!

Person A:  “Chocolate pudding!”

The Group: (shouts with some enthusiasm) “Yes!”

Person A: “Cheesecake”

The Group: (shouts with more enthusiasm) “Yes!”

Person A: “Blueberries”

The Group: (shouts with even more enthusiasm as if it is the most exciting thing anyone has ever said) “YES!”

Chocolate pudding, "Yes!"
Cheesecake, "Yes!!"
Blueberries, "YES!!!"

      4.  Go around the circle so everyone has a chance to name desserts and be accepted by the group.

      5.  Invite feedback about the experience!

Facilitation Tips

  • Explain to the group that their job is to be supportive.  If someone says says the same thing twice, something that has already been said, or something that others would not consider a dessert, it is still the job of the group to say “YES!”
  • Encourage building enthusiasm with verbal and nonverbal language.
  • Allow for people to hesitate a little as some people will.  In that moment of hesitation lies the  hidden reality of how hard speaking up can be! Try to be comfortable and get the group to be patient with the waiting. This too, can be hard.
  • Eventually people will come up with ideas and if they don’t you can encourage them to name things that have already been named, or help with a clue like asking for kinds of ice-cream, or give the option to ‘pass’ and circle back, or even eventually letting others help them.  (When people struggle with naming something like 3 desserts, imagine how hard speaking up might be as a new staff member to manager or manager to senior leader. Assertiveness is complicated and “Radical Acceptance” helps build it at the very roots. AND true collaboration and optimal creativity come from a place where all voices are spoken and heard.)
  • If you suspect that assertiveness  will be hard for some people in the group, have them do one category in pairs and then one in the full circle.  Pairs are safer and this will help build confidence and trust.
  • As you invite feedback it is always possible that someone will share that it isn’t good for a group to always agree with everything someone says.  This is true so validate their point and add that the activity can help to build confidence and allows for practicing speaking up.  As people learn to trust that they’ll be heard and honored in this activity, they will be more likely to share an idea, concern, or constructive feedback in the clinical environment. Strangely enough, the “Yes and…” principle of improv is quite helpful in developing the confidence to say “No”!
  • Assuming you are starting a rippling effect with your team and other leaders will try it with theirs, use it as a conversation starter to see kinds of categories others have come up with and/or what others think of the experience.   If nothing else, it is a shared, positive social experience.

Addendum – Facilitation Tips for Teachers

  • With younger children, start out with one or two things. You can build up to three as comfort levels increase. When you facilitate for one or two things, simple tell the other children to respond with big enthusiasm each time. It doesn’t have to gradually increase.
  • Choose categories that will enhance everyone’s success. You can adapt to bring out quieter kids a little by choosing a category that you think they will be comfortable with. ‘Animals’ or ‘pets’ for a kid who loves dogs or ‘characters from books’ for a kid who loves to read will be helpful. And be sure to watch the face’s of these kids as they get support from all their classmates.
  • Another variation would be to have one person in the circle share their ‘thing’ while the person to their right provides support. This will allow you to change direction and placement of kids in the circle over time and with discretion. A simple maneuver that will nurture power sharing in new and healthy directions!
  • Explain that children should be appropriate. Otherwise they don’t have to be perfect and mistakes are fine.
  • When children seem to be struggling with an idea, encourage the class to be patient and quiet. Invite the child to choose someone to help them with an idea and those with ideas can raise their hands. These moments can feel awkward or even painful and being mindful of allowing a couple of seconds of struggle is important. This is where impulses for the quieter child to hold back from sharing and the more comfortable child to speak up lie and can be guided towards growth. Yet, it is also important to move quickly so the child can experience success. And it is perfectly fine for a child to experience the group’s support when s/he shares an idea provided by someone else.
  • You could also consider coming up with a word that anyone can use if they can’t think of anything, such as “pog”. You might even call the game “Pog”. Play “Pog” a few times over the year and watch for your students to become better listeners and more confident while playing and elsewhere!
  • Make a mistake on purpose to demonstrate that participants should be supported no matter what they say. For instance, if the category is ‘fruit’, you could say “spaghetti”. This will prompt laughter and possibly judgments about you being wrong. You can show resilience and remind students that their job in this activity is to support each other. Follow with, “I’m going to say ‘spaghetti’ again and want to hear you support me.”
  • No doubt you will have ideas to make it safer and enhance learning. Perhaps you could have smaller groups up front while others watch, index cards with words or pictures in a certain categories available as prompts for the first few times you do it. Or maybe assign one student to be available as a resource or helper and that person can be called upon by anyone having trouble thinking of something, whisper an idea to the one asking for help. Still the child who asks for help will share the idea. Or maybe they can say it together. Facilitating the activity so that everyone experiences sharing and being supported is the best measure of your success.

Share your experience

Keep your eyes and ears open to how the experience is impacting the energy and morale in your workplace (or classroom).

If you want, take a picture and write a short story about it. Maybe we’ll publish on the Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab (PILL) Blog. 🙂 Contact me for more info at beth@bethboynton.com!

There is a lot more to applied improv than meets the eye!

Contact Beth to learn more about teaching improv in healthcare or other businesses. And check out the exciting new methodology combining improv with mindfulness offered in Be Crazy workshops co-created by Liz Korabek-Emerson and Beth Boynton!

Fortunately/Unfortunately – Hilarious Improv Take-Home Activity with a Resiliency Ripple

I love the games we play at PILL so much that I go home and get my family to play some of them during dinner.  Our favorite so far has been ‘Fortunately/Unfortunately’.  It’s hilarious and heart-warming to see us all, especially my teenage daughter getting into it, letting her hair down, being silly and having so much fun! -Kelly Hurd, M.Ed.
Reiki Practitioner, Yoga Teacher, Health & Lifestyle Coach, Wellness Educator
603 767-8622

(Scroll down to learn how to play Fortunately/Unfortunatlyl)

Thanks, Kelly!  I find it very exciting to hear how students of PILL- (Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab) bring activities home or to work.  Not long ago, another PILL student shared her story of bringing the Danish Clapping Game to a group of women she was working with in prison.  It was the first time she heard some of them laugh!  And visual art teacher, Rhonda Miller experimented with some improv with kids age 6-12 at a summer camp with great success.

The rippling effect of improv can be profound. Just imagine Kelly's daughter letting her hair down and their family playing together over a meal! Click To Tweet

I learned Fortunately/Unfortunately  at an improv for resilience workshop with Jude Treder-Wolff.  Jude is a creative arts psychotherapist, singer/songwriter and actress who creates and facilitates creativity-based workshops dealing with emotional intelligence, stress-resilience, burn-out prevention and all aspects of professional development. Her article,  Resilience Is Hope With “Muscle” — And Improvisation Training Is The Work-Out That Work is well-worth reading. In the piece she describes six ways that improv builds resilience.  For instance, “Generating supportive social experiences in which everyone can develop their capacity to respond to the unexpected and unpredictable in novel and useful ways that contribute to a rewarding creative process!”

So whether for fun or deeper learning, at home or at work, improv activities are a source of joy!

To Play Fortunately/Unfortunately

  1. Explain that you will go around in a circle and take turns with alternating phrases beginning with fortunately or unfortunately. Let your group know that they can make things up and should build on the story.
  2. If you have an odd number of people, each person will be able to build on the story with both positive and contrary mindsets.  If you have an even number, try two rounds and with second round start off with unfortunately first!
  3. Start with a statement that has some story-building potential like, “One day, (or ‘once upon a time’) I was driving to the store to pick up some groceries.”
  4. The next person should add to the story by starting with: fortunately.  For instance, “Fortunately, my children had made a shopping list for me.
  5. The next person adds to the story and starts with: unfortunately.  For instance, “Unfortunately, there the shopping list was mostly ice-cream and cake.
  6. And so on….
    • Fortunately, I found some string bean cake and broccoli ice-cream.
    • Unfortunately, when I got home my whole family made sour faces.
    • Fortunately, I decided to take the broccoli ice-cream to my neighbor as a gift.
  7. Continue to go around the circle creating the story for as long as it feels fun! Resist the urge to stop too soon as sometimes a little percolating time allows people to get more comfortable with the process.  This can lead to surprising twists!
    • Unfortunately, the ice-cream was melting all over me.
    • Fortunately…

Where this story goes is anybody’s guess. Maybe she’ll be covered with green sticky ice-cream and be mistaken for an alien who is captured and brought back to Mars!  In any case, every one will be part of the story’s creation!  A new shared experience, even if it is a silly one!

If you try it, let us know how it went!

Thankful for People of PILL!

Happy Thanksgiving to all the People of Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab – PILL!  You are such beautiful, loving, and divinely playful people.  I am grateful to each of you for trying something new and bringing your wondrous personalities and kind humanity to every class.

Each of you PILL people and the divine play of improv affirm the goodness and spirit of humanity! Click To Tweet

Over the past 2 plus years you have made me laugh, hysterically at times.  At PILL rubber bands and knitted socks come to life, shoes fly over kings in their thrones, eggplant and applesauce become mouth-watering delights, while eggplant and lemon juice a cure for gout.  Oh, and one little girl who was called to the principle’s office is forever etched in my heart.

You have inspired and influenced my improv teaching skills in a big way.  And some of you have provided video footage that has engaged healthcare professionals all over the USA and maybe abroad.  I even had the biggest blessing of having my son, Curran work with us in a filming session.  The video for the longest “Emotional Meeting”  is a teaching treasure trove and major personal joy.

I had extreme pleasure and much learning in our Stronger Together classes with Liz Korabek-Emerson.  I am grateful for our collaboration.

So thank you all for being part of PILL.

Don’t forget to do a little Danish Clapping today!

 

PILL as Playful Learning around Portsmouth – PILL as Playful Teaching around the World!

Over 2 years ago a few people joined me to launch the Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab aka PILL!  Many, such as Joanne Hardin,  have been pleasantly surprised with their experience of improv  without a performance focus.

  • I had forgotten how to play and had so much fun!
  • I met such nice people!
  • I was nervous at first, but the instructors made it safe!
  • I learned how to be a better communicator!

BTW, We have a new beginners’ class starting Saturday afternoons 11/17/18 and would love to have you join us. (If the fee is a barrier, please email beth: bbbboynton@gmail.com)

AND a lot has happened since then!

In addition to many joyful moments in classes, potlucks, fundraisers, and holiday parties there are three pretty awesome things evolving from PILL that have local and global implications.

First, about 15 PILL students have participated in a filming project.  It is a project designed to get video footage that will help others see how fun, easy, and safe activities are.  And how they can be used to teach communication-related skills. These are held at PPMTV and are a blast. Pizza, T-shirts, and fun times are the rewards for participants and I get powerful video footage that I can use  as a nurse consultant.  I teach communication and emotional intelligence in healthcare and am very passionate about it b/c the skills help us provide better care and enjoy our work.  (We make way too many mistakes for our patients and suffer way too much burnout.)

Just last month an online article I wrote about Medical Improv included PILL videos and has gone over the world wide web.  Check it out here and please share with any healthcare professionals you know!

Second, one PILL student knew of and thought that we could be helpful to Friends Forever International, (FFI) a Durham, NH based organization that helps young adults from other countries learn skills and build relationships that will help them become leaders and promote peace!

Michael, Beth, Myan, Liz, & Clinton

Co-teacher, Liz Korabek-Emerson and I reached out, met with their programming director, and then had a second meeting with 3 of their Alums from Northern Ireland and Israel. In this second meeting, Liz and I learned about the improv workshop they were designing and offered some ideas to help them meet their objectives.  (There is an art to designing and facilitating safe, fun, and meaningful improv workshops and I don’t mind claiming, we are really good at it.)

We left that meeting feeling quite jazzed that our input would help them bridge relationships with 10 young adults, ( 5 Catholic & 5 Protestant)!  More to be revealed w/ FFI!

 

Third, Liz and I  also kicked off a community-building  retreat for Journey Song, an organization that works with Hospice and provides singing to folks who are dying. We designed a “Gods Must Be Crazy” session using our most popular formula of mindfulness and improv!

This is a great new way for businesses to offer fun and effective team-building!

The Gods Must Be Crazy was outstanding. I thought it would be good but it was much more than that. –JS Member

I loved 'The Gods Must Be Crazy'! They added a lot to the day & set the tone for the rest of the retreat. -JS Member Click To Tweet

Want to learn more?  Drop us a line!

“Holiday Meal” An Improv Activity with a Cornucopia of Rewards!

by Richard Oberbruner

“Holiday Meal”  

The actors sit in chairs around an imaginary square table (empty middle space). They each impersonate a family member from one of their actual holiday meals. It’s this simple. The mix of personalities will light up the scene!

There is one rule to get the scene started: Talk in order. Once each character is introduced, then multiple conversations typically take hold.

Just like a real holiday meal!

One actor begins speaking in-character. All other actors pay attention in their own way. The next actor to-the-right then gets speaking focus, and so on around the table. The next actor can continue the current topic or branch-off into another one. React naturally when it’s your turn. Let your character’s emotional state dictate what you say. Holiday meals can be emotional pressure cookers. Actors get to say on-stage what is typically not said in real life. Take advantage of this.

Once every character is introduced, the orderliness fades, replaced with a couple conversations going on simultaneously – just like a real holiday meal! Don’t let the menagerie bother you. This is a good challenge for actors to stay focused on who they are, as well as, reacting to what they hear.

At my recent improv class, one woman’s boyfriend wasn’t showing up “again.” This created gossip around the table. The little boy tired of all the “adult talk” hid underneath the table. The know-it-all lady next to him said “That kid needs to be on something. Give him his medicine.” All the actors were being real. No one was trying to be funny. The funny took care of itself thanks to the emotional investment it takes to portray a real person.

The ultimate objective to “Holiday Meal” is controlled chaos. Real people with real feelings reacting to real things. Click To Tweet

Does your character shy away in a busy setting or stick his/her nose in the action? Does he/she become louder, quieter, gossipy, appalled? It’s fun to lose yourself in a scene like this. Beginners can safely test a new idea. More experienced improvisers have a multitude of situations to react to. In either case, “Holiday Meal” creates realistic characters in the heat of the moment.

Learn more about Richard’s work as a Communications Coach at R.O.I Training. Improv is his communication tool. He conducts employee engagement sessions with corporations and non-profits nationwide.

https://www.buildingbrighterteams.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardimprov/

This Gifted Seacoast Illustrator is Also Very Funny!

After being told not to draw on the walls, Carolyn at age three, started doodling under windowsills and on the blank end papers of hard back books.  When these crayon creations started appearing under the toilet seat, her mom finally took the hint and gave her pens and paper to use. 

(See what I mean about being funny?)

Carolyn grew up in the Seacoast area and received her BFA at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. She has worked as a freelance illustrator for the past 34 years, including one year at Hallmark in Kansas City. After living in San Francisco & Seattle for 22 years, she finally moved back to Portsmouth in 2003. 

Carolyn creates illustrations for advertising, publishing, & products.  To learn more about her work check out her online portfolio.  I saw some familiar art like this Portsmouth, NH one, one for Market Square Day, and Barbara’s foods.

(See what I mean about being gifted?)

To find out more about her humor, check out this story when she played the Rogue Rubber Band at a recent PILL class and her website about page where she is intently playing monopoly with her cat! Well, someone’s cat.

To come and play some easy, safe, improv, check out the next entry-level Discover PILL class! Four Saturday afternoons 2:30-4:30p starts Nov 17th.  If you need to increase your joy experience during the holidays and current events, I highly recommend it! 🙂

 

Lessons about Perspective-taking and Empathy from a Rogue Rubber Band & Hand-knitted Pair of Socks!

Carolyn

Carolyn Vibbert, an illustrator and Kathy Pearce, a librarian are also PILL students (Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab).

Kathy

Oh, but that’s not all!

Carolyn was recently interviewed as the most memorable Rogue Rubber Band (RRB) followed by Kathy answering questions as the most endearing Hand-knitted Pair of Socks (H-kPoS) in our own version of the new hit podcast Everything is Alive!

I know, I know,  it sounds weird.  Yet, not only was it extremely fun to have them interview each other while they personified inanimate objects, both conversations were quite heartfelt.

Here are some highlights!

RRB shared stories from being in a war with other rubber bands.  She didn’t like that.  She also explained how some would put her on their wrist and snap her for some sort of behavior change and that kind of jazzed her up.  Then, in answering a question about being useful, she shared a poignant story of how one her friends who had a disability (was broken) and had been wrapped around a pile of papers and secured with a piece of tape.

H-kPoS shared what it was like to go through the washing machine, scary at first, but ultimately fun. (It was her favorite day of the week as I recall, emerging all fresh and clean).  She also described a difficult time in her life when she was separated from her mate having been trapped in a pant leg and put away for the season.  Oh but what a joy it was when they found each other again! And she wasn’t worried about aging and getting worn b/c becoming a puppet or even cleaning rag offered promises of vitality.

After our class that evening I thought about the experience a lot! I realized that it could be a fun and safe way to build empathy and practice perspective-taking.  I mean, if we can let ourselves think and feel what someTHING else’s experience might be, just maybe it could be a fun, safe step in exploring what someONE else might be thinking or feeling.

Perspective-taking and empathy are critical relationship skills that help us listen, learn, and navigate conflict. Click To Tweet

Powerful skills for today’s world, right? Skills that require safe practice b/c they are not easy to develop, especially if we are feeling vulnerable.

Facilitated improv classes are fun, safe, and sometimes, transformative!

Next entry level Discover PILL class starts Saturday afternoon 11/17/18.

Friends Forever International-Did you know about this cool organization in our backyard?

Right off of Rte 4 in Durham! You have to admit this is pretty exciting work.  Hopeful work. 

Their MISSION:

Friends Forever International empowers youth leaders to connect, strengthen, and serve communities around the globe by combining their passion to make the world a better place with the skills, experiences, and resources required to do so.  Learn more about the awesome work FFI is doing.

Their GOAL

Every young person who desires, regardless of ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, and ability will have the opportunity to build their leadership skills beyond what they imagined possible before participating in the program. These young leaders will transform the way that they see the world and realize that they can change the world for the better. Now.

How did this get on the PILL radar you ask?

Word of mouth always involves relationships and stories. That’s why when PILL student, Joanne Hardin suggested that Liz Korabek-Emerson and I reach out to FFI leadership, we did.  She had just completed our mindfulness and improv class, Stronger Together and in addition to her testimonial, felt our work might be of interest to this organization.  (She knows of FFI from a close friend.)

Front to back Chelsea, Beth, Liz!

Long story short, we reached out and were invited to connect. Liz and I met with Chelsea Fitton, Sr. Program and Community Engagement Manager recently.  As you can see we had an inspiring meeting.  And we hope to go back and talk more with their alumni trainers soon.  Thinking just maybe some mindfulness and improv might be helpful! 🙂

Lots of hopeful stuff going on in the world despite all the chaos!  Thanks, Joanne!