Unzipping your everyday skin

Future of Being

Why what's obvious to you isn't obvious to others

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece about my biggest learnings since starting improv. I can’t recall anything I’ve done in recent history that has so radically shifted how I experience the world. So today, I want to talk to you about faces.

A face is a shape. No. A face is a feeling that we express. Still no. A face is a thousand shards of  stories, traumas and opinions neatly zipped up in a singular expression. Ah, yes.

Improv is the process of unzipping your everyday skin and peeking at the layers that lie asleep inside. Maybe you find an old soul trapped in a young body. Perhaps you stumble on someone who wears confidence like a coat. Or maybe you discover a version of yourself that screams the words you never said, that sheds the skin you yearned to outgrow.

The true delight in finding a new face is when that face collides with someone else’s. Perhaps your improv partner asks you to name things you might find at a military base and you triumphantly yell “porridge” as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. This interaction is utterly unremarkable and exquisitely beautiful at the same time. Something that seems abundantly obvious to you (the military must eat breakfast, after all), is entirely unexpected by the military base that exists in your partner’s conscious mind. When a gap in obviousness seeps into the soul of an interaction, humour and vulnerability are born.

Obviousness is a curious concept. It claims to sit upon a throne of objectivity but when you dig a little deeper, it betrays its true subjective nature. Let’s call this “subjective obviousness”. There is immense creative power that lies within subjective obviousness. A simple shift in accent, tone or gesture can dramatically alter the way your partner reacts to your face. A coy glance interpreted as a murderous glare extends an offer before you’ve even uttered a word. A Japanese business partner who interprets “no” as “yes” opens the door to a brand new opportunity.

Remember: what’s obvious to you isn’t obvious to everyone else. Unzip your skin and paint your friends, colleagues and partners in a silhouette of trust. Do the obvious, be the obvious, state the obvious. You never know what you might discover.

February 27, 2024