Sunday, February 21, 2010

"High Status" vs "Low Status"

I am finally taking an improvisation class here in NYC, and I am fascinated by all it's applications to real life! I strongly suggest your taking one if you can, even if you have nothing to do with the performing world! It has always terrified me as I prefer to perform well-rehearsed. It's time for me to just dive in! It's excellent training for being completely in the moment. You have to be. You have no choice! I am still learning how to stop the inner chatter than goes on with my attempting to pre-think what I might say or do next and just be there, listening to my scene partner and responding to what they give me. How often are we reminded how important it is to be in this moment? The "Now"? The main "rule" of improv is: Always say "Yes, AND....". This means that, no matter what your partner says or does, you are to agree to the situation they create and add something to it. This doesn't always have to be a verbal "yes", but it can be. The minute you say no to something, you just end up in an argument, which can get very annoying to watch, or the scene can't go anywhere. So that's the "yes" part. The "AND...." part encourages you to add something to the mix. You want to create a scene with your partner where something is happening between two people in a certain place. You want to add something to the scene that can inform what is actually going on. For some strange reason, our natural instinct at first was to ask questions rather than make statements. We would say to our partner, "Do you think it's hot in here?", when it would be more informative/effective to say "It is hot in here.". Learning how to notice when I feel compelled to ask something rather than SAY something in a scene was very revealing. We began realizing how much we do that in real life. I think we do this because it feels like we are being polite to the other person, even if we most definitely are not! For instance, one of my classmates said to her partner with mucho attitude, "If you're so unhappy, do you really think you should stay at this job?". Why all the attitude? Wouldn't a caring person just say "You should find a job that makes you happier."? Retraining our minds to think in statements rather than questions can only enhance our ability to communicate what we want and who we are to each other and the Universe. Why play games with all the small-talk?

This week we were discussing status and how that can affect a scene. Status is always at play, on stage and off. Teacher versus student, parent/child, coffee barista/customer, etc. And even though we have our usual assumptions with those situations, it isn't always the adult or "authority figure" who ends up being high status! Think of the timid substitute teacher with no control over her unruly class. We were examining how your behavior would change if you were high status versus if you were low status. How would you carry yourself? How would you speak? How would you interact with someone? My teacher explained it in a way that I have not been able to get out of my mind all week. She said that the person with higher status is not affected by anything the person with low status does/says while the person of low status is affected by everything the high status person can do/say. Now there are, of course, gray areas to this and people can become affected and change, but, for the most part, this is entirely true. It got us thinking about how we interact with anyone. Disrespectful roommates, loved ones who may not be giving you what you deserve, that barista at the coffee shop.... I have been thinking about this ever since. I can be quite stern when I need to be, but mostly, I am entirely too affected by everyone else in my world! Now, there is a part of me that truly appreciates this quality about me. I love my sensitivities because they allow me to empathize, to feel, to love. I don't want to be the entirely opposite of what I am. But there are, most definitely, people in my world who are entirely unaffected by what I say/do and whose actions I have allowed to disrupt my well-being. Learning about status, what it means, and how it affects our behavior is making me rethink how I ought to carry myself and be. Are there relationships in your world where you can imagine gaining some status?