Laughing with people you love is greate fun, so we've been watching a lot of Whose Line Is It Anyway? lately. I'm enamored by the on-the-spot creativity, wordplay, and unpredictability.
My favorite routine is called two-line vocabulary. It works like this:
A scene is provided, such as an operating room or submarine. The first person is the central character and can say anything she likes. Two other people, though, can only say one of two lines they are given for the entire scene.
Each one is hilarious. My favorites are "That can't be good!", "What was that?", and "Run that by me again."
They joke on the show that it's a great game to play with your partner, parents, or kids without telling them. Scroll through reactions and commentary online and it's clear that the web is like a worldwide game of two-line vocabulary.
You see it in the reaction to big news and political events, acquisitions, scandals, redesigns and changed logos, new products, books, etc. Judgement arrives swiftly, free of nuance; awesome or awful. "That app still exists?", "I didn't even know they were still alive?", "What were they thinking?" Most of the fevered opinion is predictable. It's as if there are only two lines at our disposal.
The missing piece is empathy. It's difficult and doesn't provide much social validation, but it's worth it.
My friend Mattt Thompson wrote about empathy recently:
We naturally want to help one another, to explain ideas, to be generous and patient. However, on the Internet, human nature seems to drop a few packets. Practicing empathy online becomes a feat of moral athleticism.
Before engaging with someone, take a moment to visualize how that encounter would play out in real life. Would you be proud of how you conducted yourself?
Let's add empathy whenever we can, and a few more lines to our vocabulary.