Fight, Flight, or Play: Learning Conflict Resolution Skills Through Improv

It’s that time of year again! The next two days we’ll be blogging from GovLoop and YGL’s Next Generation of Government Training Summit. Follow along @NextGenGov and read more blog posts here.

NextGen Interactive Workshop: [email protected]


John Windmueller

Organizational Training Manager of [email protected]

Washington Improv Theater (WIT)

“Improv skills are life skills”

Smiles everywhere. Screaming and chanting. Huge cheering squads gathered around as the two finalists battled it out.

The victor of a huge improvised Rock Paper Scissors competition emerged with applause from the crowd.

Does this sound like a training summit for government workers to you? No? Well at NextGen things are a bit different from your average conference. In an effort to support the next generation of government leaders, Govloop and its co-sponsors try to break through the rut of bureaucracy with unique events and inspiring sessions.

One of the more interactive sessions for today included John Windmueller, the Organizational Training Manager of [email protected], a part of Washington Improv Theater (WIT). Armed with a PhD in Conflict Resolution and a love of comedy, John visits work places in an effort to instill the crucial soft skills that employees need to create a successful work environment through Improv exercises.

One of the most important exercises that John led the NextGen attendees through was the “Yes, and…” concept. The example he gave was one person says “It’s a beautiful day in Hawaii” and the second person responds, “Yes, and it’s beautiful and a wonderful day to get married”. Here, the first person says a statement, and the second person listens, acknowledges, and then builds upon that idea.

According to many social scientists, people are inclined to say “No” first. People say no out of fear, out of a desire for control, and even for power (and sometimes, just because it is the better decision). In the “Yes, and…” situation, if the second person said “No, We’re not in Hawaii,” it would halt the conversation.

The second lesson with the “Yes, and…” concept is to listen. Many people try to think ahead while someone is talking. They think about what they are going to say next instead of listening. This doesn’t work in Improv or in the workplace. The goal is to stop and listen, acknowledge what the other person is saying, and then build upon that idea. By doing so, you’ll nurture a strong conversation that could lead to stronger brainstorming.

The lessons that John taught in this short session are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing strong interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. To learn more, check out [email protected]’s programs.

More information on NextGen

Today GovLoop and Young Government Leaders are hosting their annual Next Generation of Government Leaders Summit. Throughout the summit, be sure to check GovLoop and our social media sites to keep up with all the latest from the summit. We’re really excited about this year – and hope to share the experience with all of you.

If you’re unfamiliar with NextGen, the annual training summit educates, inspires and promotes innovation for new and rising leaders in government. Since 2010, the two-day summit has enhanced the professional and personal lives of 2,000+ Generation X and Y government employees, who are excited to learn new skills to innovate.

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