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  • Writer's pictureRaven Bonniwell

An Actor’s Toolbox: Observing Our Natural Tendencies

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

I am a leadership coach, this is true. I am ALSO the founder and artistic director of a theatre company called We Happy Few.

We create fresh and original interpretations of classic texts. These two practices may seem unrelated, but there are many ways in which they inform each other. I’d like to talk about one of those today: How actors become familiar with their natural tendencies and turn them into tools.

In my training as an actor I spent a lot of time getting very specific about what my habits really are. A person might tend to lean on their right hip, or they may speak from their nose. These tendencies are not wrong in and of themselves, but it is important to understand what they are and learn how to choose whether or not to use them. So, if an actor is always slouching to the right, they might practice slouching to the left for a while, or standing evenly with two feet planted on the ground. They will practice other ways of being, and all of these go into their toolbox for later.

Every character is just a little bit different. They each have their own quirks and intricacies. Maybe we are playing a character that happens to align with our right sided slouch and our naval voice. Great! But not every character stands or speaks that way. Some characters speak from the back of their throat or through their teeth. Some characters walk with a hunch. Whatever comes our way, we’ve got tricks in our toolbox that we don’t use all the time. Some of them come from our natural tendencies, and some of them don’t.

In coaching, I look at the habits my clients have in life, and rather than judging them as wrong and saying, “…Don’t ever do that again,” I help them practice other options and gain facility with choosing which the best tool in their toolbox for this situation. Sometimes my clients use skills previously undeveloped to better tackle life’s challenges. Other times they identify a moment in which their natural tendency is the best way to go, and go with it wholeheartedly.

Here are a few natural tendencies to keep an eye out for in your own life:

1.) Making lists. This is one of my own habits. I used to have to make a list every time I went to do anything throughout my day. Over time, I’ve developed a different relationship with lists. These days, I still make lists when necessary, but it’s a tool that I can pull back at any moment. Sometimes you just don’t need one!

2.) Weighing the pros and cons. Another way to phrase this is doing a cost benefit analysis. This can be a very helpful tool when a decision is overwhelming or involves a lot of moving parts, but it isn’t always necessary. I’ve noticed that many of my clients automatically resort to pro/con lists, even when they are making seemingly small or inconsequential decisions. You don’t need to weigh the pros and cons for absolutely everything that you do!

3.) “I’ll just do it myself.” Leaders tend to think, “This will take too long to explain, it would be quicker to just take care of it myself.” This can be effective sometimes. The reality is, as a CEO or business owner, the buck stops with you. Sometimes it is crucial to step in and get it done. But only sometimes! This tool can become an automatic habit that takes over far too often. Observing it, noticing it, and being intentional about when it should be used will allow you to utilize the support that you have and focus on the things that you do best.

Originally published on Linked-In


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