“And I will try to fix you.”

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Please, don’t, Coldplay.

Sometimes people don’t want to be fixed.  It negates the validity of how they’re feeling.  I’m really shitty at not-fixing people – the eternal optimist in me wants to make everything okay, to find the silver lining, the light in a bad situation.

But my teacher made a really good point.

If someone goes on stage and says that they think they’re too overweight, you can’t tell them, “Oh, no really, you’re fine.”  That was their gift to themselves and you – this character either has low self-esteem or is incredibly blunt and comfortable pointing out his own defects.  And you’ve just deprived him of that character trait and yourself of the opportunity to play with that character.  You’ve essentially negated what he’s said.  And where will the scene go from here?  “Oh, yes I am.” “No, really, you’re not. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” “But I am.”  Someone will have to win, and although I’m sure we’ve all had those conversations in real life, they’re better off-stage than on.

If a fellow improviser goes on stage and says that she thinks her husband is going to file for divorce, you can’t say “Oh, I’m sure you’re overreacting.”  Sure, you are endowing this character with a trait they possibly didn’t know that they had, a gift.  But you’re also saying “no.”  You’re denying them the chance to see how this would play out to affect their character and their character’s relationship with yours.

I know it’s our tendency in life to try to make things better – we’re actually a very pro-social species.  But sometimes, people just need to wallow.  Sometimes, they don’t want to tell you what’s bothering them – they just want you to hug them.  That will make it better.  Or perhaps they need to work through their issues on their own and you’re depriving them of some agency.  The best way to fix something is just to let the person know that you’re there should they want your help.

And thank God for the things that are not fixed.  We’d be so boring if we were all perfect.

 

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4 responses »

  1. Excellent post! From a purely improv perspective I have noticed that some improvisers are fixers. They always try and make something better in a scene – like your “you aren’t really fat” example. It is so much better, story-wise, to make things worse!

    Life perspective: spot on! Don’t we all want to “fix” our friends and doesn’t that almost always fail or backfire when we try?

    • Yep, it definitely is better to make it worse. I always have to fight within myself though because it seems like the unfriendly thing to do, but then I remember it’s the better improviser thing to do. Any maybe it’s not so much the “unfriendly” thing to do. You’re right – we can’t “fix” our friends! Just love them as they are!

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