Tom Salinsky tells us how to scare a 


y background is in comedy and theatre, particularly improvisation, although today

most of my work is delivering training sessions. Sometimes, my attendees will learn this information only as the session starts. I have to be careful that the news doesn’t freak them out, because if the group is full of tension and anxiety, it will be harder for them to learn. Te first thing I tell them is to stop trying their hardest, because that guarantees that they will be in a bad state, which is they last thing I want. If I did want my attendees in a

bad state, I could achieve it relatively easily. I could say a handful of words which would put them into a significantly worse state than they were before I said them. Tose words are… “Can I have a volunteer?” Tat usually does the trick. People

start shrinking into their seats a little, or avoiding eye contact with me, or volunteering the person next to them – anything to avoid being that volunteer. Eventually, some brave soul will put a sheepish hand up, or I’ll just pick on someone. And when that person comes up to the front with me, they change. Tey looked perfectly happy and healthy when they were safe in their seat, but now they’re up here with me, they start to look a little feeble. And I think this is a deliberate

strategy, and one with a very reassuring outcome. If you stand in front of a room full of people looking not-quite- up-to-the-task, it sends a very clear message to the rest of the room: don’t expect too much, this isn’t going to be very good. And now you can relax! You have successfully lowered expectations. But this becomes a self-fulfilling

You have successfully lowered expectations. But this becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy. You can’t do your best when you are behaving in this way

prophecy. You can’t do your best when you are behaving in this way. Many people seem trapped between

trying their hardest and raising their anxiety levels, or advertising failure before they even begin. Either (or both) of these strategies can become habitual reactions to anything which is out of your ‘comfort zone’ but because neither makes the activity more comfortable, your comfort zone never expands its borders. Adopting a cheerful and confident attitude is the only way which actually works. If you want to, you can call this ‘fake it till you make it,’ but because adopting a confident and cheerful attitude genuinely does make things easier, you don’t have to fake it for very long, because doing something well and which seems easy will also make you feel confident for real. I will end this column with a

question. Te reaction I have described to me asking for a volunteer is typical, but not universal. Tere is one group of people (and only one) who will react in a totally different way. What group, and how do they react?*

Tom Salinsky is an actor, improviser, writer, teacher and trainer. He is also a director of the Spontaneity Shop @tomsalinsky

38 | July 2016 | @TrainingJournal


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