I’m about to tell you why acting benefits every single part of your life.
But before I tell you why acting benefits your career, communication style, personal relationships and any number of other things, I’d like to introduce you to a friend. (His name has been changed, to protect the innocent.) Let me assure you, this guy is an amalgam of every charismatic, personable, charmed, happy-go-lucky person in your inner circle.
Let’s call him “Chip”.
Chip is one of these (annoyingly?) effortless crowd-pleasers. He’s a dad to young kids. He’s got a 9-5. He’s well-networked and has lots of hobbies. His projects seem to just magically attract success. People like him wherever he goes. Things come easily to him. Is Chip just lucky?
He might be. But what you don’t see immediately is that “Chip” has spent a decade of his life refining his performance and public speaking skills through acting classes. He’s rehearsed again and again the “art” of standing in front of strangers and finding a relaxed but engaged state of being.
He’s an actor. And a very good one.
And that skill set has made him very good at a lot of other things. Selling, networking, relationship building. I could go on.
This is no accident.
When you think of an acting class, any number of hokey stereotypes might come to mind. Over-the-top accents? Actors performing dramatic mime-style movement exercises? No, and no. Not at Dearing Acting Studio, at any rate.
List of the Top Acting Benefits for your Life
Let me give the 8 surprising benefits that acting classes provide. Hopefully, you’ll see that acting training isn’t just for those who aspire to be on Broadway.
1. Acting Classes Build Confidence
If the idea of getting up in front of people and singing, improvising, doing stand-up or even just speaking gives you palpitations, you aren’t alone. According to a Linkedin article, there’s even a word for it – Glossophobia, in case you’re interested- and it affects up to 76% of us. Seventy-six percent! The second fear is death. Make that make sense.
The seemingly illogical thing about public speaking is that we should be able to “over-ride” this fear. We know we aren’t going to get hurt while public speaking, right? We’re not climbing up the face of a rock with no rope while giving the quarterly report.
But fear is primal, which means it will not respond to your logic. Your hypothalamus is screaming “Flight! Flight! Flight!” Your adrenals kick in and suddenly all the nervous symptoms converge on your body. Heart racing, tight throat, shaking hands. If you’ve experienced this feeling before, you understand how it gets to be a top-ranked fear among so many.
So how in the world can we “win” against such a powerful, automatic response?
One word: Rehearsal.
Acting classes give you a chance to rehearse and confront this situation in a fun, supportive environment. The good news is that every single time you get up to perform anything, whether it’s a commercial, a monologue, a script, an improv scene or an audition…you will improve. It will get less scary every time. Our friend Chip, for example, overcame some major anxiety through consistent improvisation. The same can happen for you. Your body will learn to relax, despite the fact that people are watching you. And a relaxed acting instrument (that’s you, FYI) is the only means to dynamic and powerful communication.
We do not exist in a vacuum. Even if you work from home, you can still rely on the fact that you will have to work alongside many different personality types in your lifetime. Acting classes are a fantastic way to open yourself to deeper levels of listening and emotional connectedness.
The foundation of Improvisation, for example, hinges on two words you’ve probably heard before: “Yes, and…” You can see how this engaged, humbled stance could quickly build something beautiful in a scene. The actor must acknowledge his reliance on his scene partner or partners. He must adapt and flow with their ideas while making his own presence felt. Imagine how this skill translates to a board meeting, for one example.
I’m also going to tell you that friendships are forged in an acting class. They just are. Everyone is being vulnerable together and showing up for one another. You’re going to find cheerleaders in the room who genuinely want you to do well. It’s not the only reason you should go to acting class, but it is a beautiful, tangential benefit. (Our friend Chip from the introduction actually met his wife at our acting studio. We’ll call her “Kara”. We can’t guarantee you’ll meet your soul mate at Dearing Studio, but…you never know.)
When you hear poise, what do you think of? I’ll be honest and say my first association is a pageant contestant, walking in heels and an evening gown while flashing some gorgeous veneers. But hang with me a second.
Poise is actually defined as being “graceful and elegant bearing in a person; balance; equilibrium.” If you read the section about how nerves can sabotage your endeavors, you see why cultivating poise in the physical body is a significant undertaking!
Tension and poise cannot exist together. Acting Classes offer exercises for breathing, body awareness and grounding. This can help you refine your nervous behaviors, distracting ticks and bad performance habits into natural, graceful and (dare I say) poised movements instead.
Our friend Chip found the biggest area of improvement here to be in his breathing! He realized that his performance anxiety produced rapid, shallow breathing which was the first domino in a series of nervous habits. Once he found a deeper connection to his breath through acting exercises, the other habits resolved themselves one at a time.
Imagine yourself in a room full of strangers for a moment. How does that make you feel, on a scale of one to worst nightmare? How easily do you believe you can navigate the room?
I’m not talking about annoying “some-weather-we’ve-been-having” kind of small talk but actually creating relationships.
Charisma might be natural to some (like Chip) but make no mistake: It is a skill like any skill and it can be strengthened. And, like so many life skills, it begins with deeper levels of listening. At Dearing Studio, we have a wall in the back of the theater with one word on it: “Listen”. It is the foundation for being a better performer AND conversationalist. So many acting class exercises are geared toward this end!
5. Ability to Understand Others – Empathy
You can think of endless examples here of gifted actors who beautifully portrayed an experience radically different than their own. Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump, Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles…the list could go on and on. These brilliant performances all demonstrate how impactful it is to be willing to view life from a different perspective.
One of the many gifts an acting class offers is the chance to experience another’s point of view. It broadens our perspective to engage in the creative exercise of acting out someone else’s unique story. A beautiful by-product of this process is a more empathetic approach to life.
Empathy – the ability to understand the experiences and feelings of other people – is not just a critical skill for actors. The most effective leaders and communicators harness the gift of “getting behind another person’s eyes”. How does this directly benefit you in a professional setting? It will inevitably improve your ability to care for customers. You will find that you build the habit of listening more deeply to your colleagues. It will, inevitably, augment your ability to engage, inspire and care for those who you lead.
6. Improved Neuroplasty through Memorization
Can memorizing new things actually help your memory? It turns out it can! We’ve had countless students over our 17+ years of business attest to the powerful tool that memorizing can be!
Memorizing is a form of habit training, pure and simple. You are creating the habit of retaining and recalling information for when you need it. Every time you memorize something new, you are encouraging your brain to forge new neural connections that help improve your overall memory!
As we age, there is a natural amount of decline in this skill set. The good news is that consistently exercising the ability to memorize can offset this!
In an acting class, memorizing is a given. Whether you’re learning a script for Dearing Studio a long scene in masterclass or a short commercial for an audition, you’re giving yourself an incredible gift. Chip, for example, has now memorized enormous sections of incredible plays like “Death of a Salesman”, “The Boys Next Door”, “Streetcar Name Desire” and “Doubt”. I’m talking pages and pages of material. If this sounds intimidating to you, just begin with anything. A poem, a play, a prayer…there’s no wrong place to start. But do start.
7. Stress Reduction
This is the part where I get to (finally!) talk about how much FUN it is to be in an acting class!!! We have students frequently tell us that acting classes feel therapeutic to them. Why is that? There are a few reasons, I suspect.
We have a practice in our acting classes at Dearing Studio – we have people leave their cell phones in a box in the lobby. “Silent Mode” isn’t going to cut it sometimes. Just feeling that rectangle nearby makes it hard to leave your day – the stresses and worries -behind. That’s why we take them at the door.
Why do we do this? We want you to be fully present. All of you is required for an acting class because your whole self (body and mind) are the instrument!
The good news is on the other side of this practice is, inevitably a lot of fun and freedom.
Once you’ve left the day in the lobby, you’re going to step outside of your comfort zone! This absolutely reduces stress. You know the expression “If you do what you’ve always done you’ll always be what you’ve always been”? Well an acting class is the perfect place to step out of routine.
8. Emotional Intelligence
Have you heard anything about AI-generated copy? This was new to me. In case it’s also new to you, it goes a little something like this. There are programs that allow you to enter the kind of content you want, detail your specifications and push a button. POUF. Out comes your essay, or email, or blog post or whatever you asked for.
Here is some writing generated by an AI copywriting tool about emotional intelligence. Ready?
Acting classes can greatly improve emotional intelligence in several ways. By taking on different characters and storylines, actors have the opportunity to practice empathy and put themselves in someone else’s shoes. This can lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation for others, which is a key component of emotional intelligence. The process of exploring and expressing emotions through characters can also help actors become more self-aware and understand their own emotional tendencies.
I mean…it’s true. It’s grammatically correct. But it proves a very vital idea:
You cannot replicate human emotion.
This is not a hard slam against every use of AI! Far from it. (Although I really hate customer service chatbots. Right? I’m not talking to a robot about why I want to return my sweater. ) There are absolutely circumstances where this kind of technology will be an asset. If you ask a specific question or give a carefully constructed command, you’ll likely get something useful. However, you simply cannot replicate emotion.
This is a problem for AI, because emotion matters very, very much. Not just in advertising, not just in business, but in your life.
There is something elemental to the human soul that we will never be able to circumvent, outsource or replicate with artificial intelligence. Emotional intelligence encapsulates a big part of what that intangible quality is.
What IS emotional intelligence? It can’t help but sound like some nebulous buzz word, so let’s define it clearly.
It is the ability to listen to and identify different emotions in other people that manifest in many different ways. This includes tone of voice, movement (or lack of movement) and speech patterns. It looks past the question “What is he talking about” and asks further “What is he REALLY saying?”
These life skills are priceless. In our kid’s classes, for example, we teach skills that would help with “stranger danger” discernment. We teach the instincts that might serve a woman walking alone through a parking lot as she tries to decipher body language from those around her. These are the same skills you’d learn in a business training seminar with Dearing Studio to help you create emotionally intelligent customer service or teamwork.
The same set of skills matter from the schoolyard to the board room. You must be able to listen and understand what is going on underneath the skin.
Sorry, AI copy generators. You just can’t do that.
Summary: Acting Benefits Provide Everlasting Value
Acting class exercises can be many things – surprising, liberating, ridiculous, energizing, revealing and everything in between. This can look like repetition exercises, improvisation, movement, scene work, memorization or vocal work. One thing is guaranteed though…you will try new things in an acting class. And the process of self-discovery and improvement is incredibly fun!
If you want to experience the ways an acting class can enhance your life, here’s where to go next.