Ever feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending disagreement with someone?
You want to move forward. You want to make progress. You want to make a decision that works for you both. And yet, you feel like you’re on opposite sides and going nowhere fast.
Maybe “Yes, and” can help.
“Yes, and” is the foundation of improvisational theatre. If you’ve ever seen “Whose Line Is It Anyway” or a performance by the Second City, you’ve seen improv at its finest. These performers make it look so easy and effortless. Part of why they’re so successful is that the work they do on stage is grounded in the “Yes, and” philosophy.
“Yes, and” is an acknowledgment of the offer your partner just made, with a contribution of your own to then move the action forward. In an improv scene, an offer might be your scene partner walking up to you, fingers shaped like a gun, saying, “Stick ‘em up!”
To “Yes, and” this offer, you may say, “Please don’t hurt me! The combination to my top secret Swiss bank vault is in my shoe.”
You first acknowledged the common ground of your situation. You responded appropriately to your partner’s offer by accepting that she was setting up a situation where she was robbing you. Next, you offered additional information that gives your partner more to play with. This new information allows the story to move forward.
If, however, you were to say, “Yes, but we’re really astronauts on a mission to Mars,” then your partner will have a much more difficult time responding and the story will likely grind to a screeching halt.
You may have come on stage with the idea of playing a couple of astronauts in space, but that wasn’t what you were offered.
And so the choice is yours about how to respond. Either acknowledge what’s been given, even though it’s different from your own idea, or shut down the dialogue and create more of a “Me vs. You” mentality.
The “Yes, and” philosophy also works well outside of the world of improv. Saying “Yes, and” to someone doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with or even like what they just said. Instead, it’s an acknowledgment that they made an offer. You’re looking to find common ground or a point of agreement on which you can build the next step in the conversation. Then, you make a new offer to contribute additional information or ideas.
To “Yes, and” is to take a more positive approach. We so often find ourselves saying, “No” or “Yes, but” (which is really a polite way of saying, “No”) when we’re talking with colleagues, friends, and family members. Our default setting is to see things from our point of view and to stick to our opinions and ideas while finding all of the reasons why the other person’s suggestions are wrong, misguided, or not as good as ours.
Try adopting the “Yes, and” approach and you’ll likely find that conversations are more energized, creativity flows more easily, and you end up having more fun with someone who’s now your teammate instead of your adversary.