They say to be good at improv, you need to stay out of your head and in the moment.

You have to trust yourself enough to allow your body to lead you. And when it’s your turn to speak, trusting enough to know that you’ll say the exact best thing to be said. However you respond is a gift to the scene.

The trouble starts when you don’t trust yourself. There’s no way to prepare for what’s coming. You could have the perfect response to a comment made 30 seconds ago but it wasn’t your turn then. It’s your turn now and the rear-view-mirror now looks entirely different.

You can get the job done by thinking about it. It’s safer, even if it falls a little flat. At least you didn’t say something stupid or offensive.

But what magic are you and the group missing because you don’t trust yourself? It’s risky. Your response could be completely inappropriate or absurd.

It takes courage to trust that you already know the right thing to do or say. To commit to yourself.

Tit for Tat

In game theory, there’s a strategy known as tit for tat or in Nicky Case’s Evolution of Trust game, as the copycat strategy.

It holds that in a game of trust where over a series of moves, two players are given the choice of cheating or cooperating, the copycat will always cooperate unless the other player cheats. Once cheated on, the copycat will retaliate. If their opponent reverts to cooperating, the copycat will do the same.

Of course there are other strategies to winning a game of trust. You can choose to always cooperate, regardless of your opponents moves, you can always cheat, you can choose to retaliate more or less harshly when your opponent cheats or you can randomize your moves completely.

Over many games, adopting a copycat strategy has been shown to be more successful than any other strategy.

In other words, sticking to your principles and only cheating defensively, will ensure you win over time. It also builds trust.

If you don’t believe it, try Nicky’s game for yourself.