I Wish I Knew About Improv When Coming Out

BY: SEAN BROWN

If you have been following The Making-Box for a while, you will notice I am new. I’m Sean, a co-op student from the University of Waterloo helping The Making-Box for the next couple of months. I’ve been doing a ton of reading about improv and how it can help with everyday life. With June’s Pride Month fresh in our minds, I would like to talk about an important experience in my life and how it could have been improved if I had known the tools and skills within the practice improv.

Coming out is a common process for many kids, teens, and adults and they will be coming out all their life to many new people they meet. This process can be very stressful for many, myself included. Just the thought of coming out gives me major anxiety, since I tend to overthink the process and always jump to conclusions about how the others will react.

This anxiety has been present every time I’ve come out, to friends, to family, and to acquaintances. Many sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder have been found to have better quality of life when practicing improv. If I knew about the skills you develop though improv earlier in my life, I think it would have helped people like me and made my coming out experiences better.

While improv teaches many different skills, here are two tools that I think are the most beneficial when coming out.

Lesson 1: Acceptance

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Let's talk about acceptance. When improvising a scene it is important to accept the ideas that your scene-mates offer, as this will help the scene to progress smoothly and in an entertaining way. By accepting others ideas, you are able to co-create a cohesive scene in which participants are content and excited to be moving forward.

While coming out is a major experience for the person coming out, it can also be hard on those they are coming out to. Depending on the views and values of the person being come out to, they may have reservations. These reservations may be caused by any number of reasons, so it's beneficial for all parties to acknowledge the others points of view. “Yes, And...” can be used to acknowledge how the other person feels and their point of view.

Instead of having conflicts stemming from a difference in ideals, it may be helpful to hear where the other is coming from, so that you can better explain your side and point of view. Having a conversation with those you care for most will likely reduce tensions, but it is also important to recognize when a person cannot be spoken to anymore and the conversation has hit a stalemate.

Lesson 2: Listening

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Another key practice in improv is listening; by listening throughout scenes you are able to pick up on subtle ideas given by your scene partners. When done well, you will appear as, and be, a more cohesive. If an improviser is to stop listening to the others in the scene they would begin to get lost and be unable to help move the scene forward.

It is important to hear everything your partner is saying in the moment, to better be able to respond in the correct context and further the scene. Therefore practicing improv can help you to avoid thinking ahead of yourself and start jumping to what you believe the other person might say. If you were to think too far ahead you may be preparing your next sentence even though your partner is taking you into a different direction.

This would have benefitted me while coming out since the main reason I feel so anxious is due to overthinking about how the other person might react. By incorporating this practice, it could help me stay in the moment, and not worry too much about what the other person is thinking and what they might say. This skill will also allow me respond more effectively to any comments the other person might have whether positive or negative.

Coming out may seem easy to some, but for a lot of people it can cause major anxiety. Practice improv skills and coming out may just become a little easier.


  Sean Brown  is a student at the University of Waterloo studying Urban Planning, and currently working on a co-op term with The Making-Box. Sean spends his free time making art, reading, and creative writing while also working with people and places within the LGBTQ+ community. With very little experience with comedy and improv, Sean is helping out the Making Box with an assortment of marketing and organizational tasks. 

Sean Brown is a student at the University of Waterloo studying Urban Planning, and currently working on a co-op term with The Making-Box. Sean spends his free time making art, reading, and creative writing while also working with people and places within the LGBTQ+ community. With very little experience with comedy and improv, Sean is helping out the Making Box with an assortment of marketing and organizational tasks.