“Code Switch” originally meant that you could shift from one language to another. Recently it’s leapt out of that box and into our social, work and docent and tour guide lives.

Code Switching is when you change who you are, or how you talk or walk, depending on who might be around. It’s how you present yourself and how you change that presentation in different circles.

As a tour guide, I code switch all the time. I definitely think there are downsides to code switching but for our purposes, code switching is a skill.

In improv we talk a lot about status. How do characters in a scene relate to each other? If in a scene, your partner chooses something high status – a king say – then it might be fun to play really low status like the court jester.

Or it can be fun to match status, imagine a scene with two kings fighting for status. Or you can really throw it on it’s head and be a low-status king with a high-status jester. Magic and hilarity ensue!

Keep in mind status is not about class or social ranking, it’s about how you hold yourself, how you speak, how you treat other people.

Code Switching On Tours

I play status in tours all the time. Often I’ll play low-status publicly but secretly high-status. You may think you came up with that answer all on your own, but I’ve been setting you up for that answer all morning.

I can status switch in the middle of a conversation if I need to – I’ve been taught this skill from years of playing with status in improv scenes. Code switching can be mindless and I fear it gets more dangerous in that realm, when you’re changing your behavior subconsciously. But done with purpose and mindfulness, it can change everything.

Do you give the same tour if it’s a bachelorette party vs. a retirement home community? I hope not! Different people require a different person from us.

If we create a few different characters that will help us code switch, that can make it easier. “Bachelorette Party Margaret” is fun and bawdy and silly, “Retirement Home Margaret” is more clever, intelligent and enthusiastic – two different people.

A quick game you can use to code switch is just to walk among your fellow humans and try walking as their king and then try walking as their jester – how is your body different? Your brain? Your thoughts?

Do you play status/code switch in your tours?