Life Skills from Acting
by Katherine Schreiber
Why Act? If you’re pursuing an acting career in theatre, film, or television, you probably already have an answer that motivates and inspires you. But there are a few additional ways that acting—whether it’s studying the craft, performing, or putting yourself out there for yet another audition—benefits your life that you may not already be aware of. As it turns out, studying acting imparts four crucial life skills that enhance just about any professional or personal endeavor.
1. Seeing different perspectives
Psychologists, business professionals, and academics all agree: having the ability to look at a situation from multiple perspectives makes you more likely to successfully navigate it. From disagreements with significant others and friends to running a business or managing customer complaints, looking at a problem from points of view other than your own gives you more ideas about how to solve the damn thing. And if the problem at hand is too difficult to solve, at least you’ll have the wisdom and insight to acknowledge the other person’s point of view.
Getting cast in a production or working on a role for your next acting class requires you to explore, understand, and ultimately communicate the motivations, hopes, fears, and behavior patterns of someone other than yourself. Looking at the world through someone else’s eyes not only improves your performances on stage and screen; it also benefits you in your personal and (non-acting-related) professional life. Think of how good it feels when someone listens to you and acknowledges your position. Make enough other people feel that way and you just might notice your circle of friends expanding…or your boss considering you for a raise.
This may be a no-brainer. But you’d be surprised by how few people master the art of actually paying attention when someone else is speaking. Listening to another person doesn’t mean just hearing the words coming out of their mouths. Effective listeners respond to vocal tone, body posture, and non-verbal cues in addition to the words being used. For example, if someone’s trying to convince you they’re trustworthy while facing away from you, avoiding eye contact, or speaking a bit too quickly, that may be a sign they’re being insincere.
Well-trained actors who continue to take classes and grow throughout their careers are more self-aware and better attuned to the nuances of other peoples’ communication styles. This cultivated sensitivity not only gives them the advantage in on stage and in auditions — is that casting director really interested in hearing how crazy your commute to this audition was? — it also helps in your day job. Writer, director, and producer Wil Masisak explains, “Effectively selling products, ideas, or concepts involves the kind of listening skills required to be a successful actor. Your main focus is on what other actors in a scene are trying to say to you — literally or via subtext. The same goes for attending to what a potential buyer or customer is saying to you, and which of their needs are being communicated.”
3. Gaining Confidence
Performing in front of a class, a live audience, or even just one other person may make some people shudder with dread. Getting up in front of a crowd doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But forcing yourself to do this as often as possible can, over time, take the edge off. Professional actor and acting coach Marcy
Lovitch notes that even the most introverted of her students emerge from their shells after a bit of training, and she should know—she teaches acting skills to non-actors to improve their confidence-building skills. Whether you need to give a public presentation, deliver an acceptance speech, or simply be more confident in social situations, the practice of emoting and communicating in front of audiences big or small can help fortify you against that debilitating self-consciousness even the smartest of psyches sometimes succumb to.
Having the flexibility to adjust immediately in response to a teacher’s feedback or to the emotions beneath your scene partner’s line doesn’t come immediately. But with practice assuming a character’s identity, feeding off audiences and other actors, and being part of a team for a theatre, film, or television production cultivates the psychological flexibility that’s beneficial in almost all aspects of your life. CEO of OpenInvo Emily Lutzker reminds us that adaptability is a highly coveted skill in today’s work environment. Processing and adjusting to customer responses as quickly as possible keeps businesses small and large afloat. Plus, the more adaptable you are at work, home — or anywhere else, for that matter — the better your mental health will be.
What are some benefits you’ve derived from acting, either personally or professionally? Share with us in the comments section below or tweet us @TSStudio
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