Being a naturally introverted person, I always felt like I was missing out on important aspects of life. That made me embark on a journey of pushing my comfort zone, with the goal of becoming more confident and assertive.
This is my experience of trying Improv Theatre, A Toastmasters Speaking Club and Comfort Zone Challenges.
The improv theatre stage.
When I signed up for a beginners course at “Stockholm Improv Theatre” I was TERRIFIED! The nightmare scenario was: “Alright, go up on the stage and entertain us!”. To my greatest relief, this was NOT AT ALL TRUE!
The group consisted of 15 people, mixed men, and women. Age ranging from 20 to 50. It turned out that the most common motivation for people was stage fright, which made me instantly feel more relaxed.
All lectures started with some kind of warmup to get the group more comfortable. For example, everybody walking randomly in the room and making eye contact when passing. Another warm-up is the “one-word story”. The group stand in a circle and add ONE word to the story each.
When the group was warmed up we moved on to playing small improvised scenes. 2-4 persons participating and the rest of the group watching. One of my favorite scenes was called “Emotion director”. Two persons were acting and two persons were assigned as to direct their emotions. They are given a location, for example in the laundry room, and their relation, for example, a married couple. The actors start improvising a scene. During the scene, the directors shout out new emotions for the actors to play out. Like anger, sadness or attraction. Very FUN and LIBERATING to act out emotions you normally would not do.
The teacher was very supportive. Encouraging us to be present and not to filter ourselves. She was amazing at creating a good vibe where everybody felt safe to act out.
One of the biggest insights was the importance of affirmation of the ideas of others. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE of improv theater. If your co-actor says “Hey, look at that black cat”, and points in the air. Then it IS a black cat! This is so true of all social interactions even outside improv.
Another insight was how relaxed it makes you feel. When you have to pay full attention to you co-actors, you cannot be anywhere else but in the present moment. This has a meditative effect.
I LOVED improv theatre and would recommend it to anyone with an open mind. It makes you more socially relaxed and playful.
What I liked
- No preparation needed.
- Brings out the playful child in you.
- When playing a character, you try out new personas. Like anger or dominance.
- You laugh A LOT!
- Makes you very present.
What I learned
- Positive affirmation of the ideas of others.
349 $ for 10 lectures.
Where can you try it
If you want to try Improv Theatre just google “Improv Classes”, followed by your city. Most larger cities have courses.
The Toastmasters Speaking Club
Me holding a speech on the theme “Get Comfortable with Visual Aids” at Toastmasters Stockholm.
I have feared public speaking as long as I can remember. Surveys show people fear it more than DEATH! I was terrible at it. Nervousness had always crippled me, making my message unclear and delivery weak. A heard about a local public speaking club called “Stockholm Toastmasters”. I decided to visit one of their meetings.
After attending a meeting as a guest I was hooked by the inspiring atmosphere. Most of the people in the room shared the same fear of public speaking. It was a place where mistakes were encouraged as a way of getting better. WOW!
Toastmasters is an international organization with over 15900 local clubs worldwide.
A typical toastmaster meeting is structured like this…
- A session of improvised speeches, 1-2 minute long, called Table Topics.
- 3-4 prepared speeches, 5-7 minutes long.
- The speech evaluators present the feedback for the prepared speeches.
After the first meeting, I made a commitment to complete 10 speeches at the club. You are then given a manual with the first speech assignments, each with a specific purpose.
This is the first 10 speech themes:
- The Ice Breaker
- Organize Your Speech
- Get to the Point
- How to Say It
- Your Body Speaks
- Vocal Variety
- Research Your Topic
- Get Comfortable with Visual Aids
- Persuade with Power
- Inspire your Audience
You can pick any topic you want as long as you focus on the theme.
After completing all ten speeches my confidence in public speaking has definitely improved. Yes, I still feel nervous but I don’t CARE as much. It feels like I have become a bit numb to the whole experience.
I also feel much more comfortable with pauses, altering the power of voice and using body gestures to enhance the message. I can deliver a message with power. That feels GREAT! Memories of horrible presentations at school have been replaced by new reference experiences from Toastmasters. Thank you, Toastmasters, for that!
A positive side effect of being in the Toastmaster environment is that you will learn to deliver EFFECTIVE feedback. That means encouraging the speaker enough to make him/her excited about the next speech but at the same time deliver a few PRACTICAL suggestions for improvement. This is SO useful even outside of this context.
What I liked
- It definitely improves your public speaking
- You learn to handle nervousness
- You get to hang around inspiring people
- You develop effective feedback
What I learned
- That public speaking is a learnable skill
145 $ per year. Weekly meetings all year round with breaks at Christmas and summer.
Find a local club
To find a local club and visit as a guest, use the club finder.
Comfort Zone Challenges
Comfort zone challenges in beautiful Budapest.
A comfort zone challenge is to put yourself in a situation that triggers social fear with the purpose of making you more socially confident. For example, do a high five with five strangers on the street. It was made famous in a TED-talk by Till Gross. Here is what I learned…
On a weekend trip to Budapest, I decided to give it a try. During one day I decided to talk to 100 unknown people that I met at the streets…
The first 10 was VERY scary. It felt like jumping off a cliff every time. Then I got a bit warmed up it started to feel more natural. But then, CRAZY FUN. Such a THRILL as I continued to challenge my fears. Interesting interactions started to happen when chatting with the local people. An experience that I would never have had otherwise. The last 30 was a grind since I started to get a bit tired of running around all day.
Only a handful was hostile to talking with a stranger. Two persons that I chatted with at the hotel invited me for dinner at a local bar. It turned out they were artists, in town to paint backdrops for the tv series “Marc o Polo”. Unexpected and a perfect finish to my challenge day.
A scary, fun, exhausting and unexpected experience.
Afterward, you feel really HAPPY and PROUD for challenging your fears and for all the people you met. I day to remember.
My most important insight from the comfort zone challenges is that PEOPLE DON’T CARE nearly as much as you think. That is very relieving. That experience makes you more socially confident.
Another insight is that talking to strangers can really open up new unexpected paths in life. For an introverted person, challenging yourself to talk to new people can definitely be a habit worth adopting.
The experience made me wish for a comfort zone challenge app, to get more challenge idéas. There was none so I created one:) If you have an Android phone you can try it out here.
What I liked
- The RUSH you get from overcoming the initial fear.
- You worry less about what others think of you.
- Rewarding social interactions that would otherwise never happened.
- Easy to fit in your everyday life.
What I learned
- People are more friendly and open that one might think.
Free if you want to come up with challenges for your own. The challenge app is $2.