Learning to Say “Yes, And…”

One of the fundamental rules of improv is to always say, “Yes, and…” This is another way of saying that you should always accept whatever “gifts” your scene partner gives you and add to them. It all boils down to trust. If your scene partner calls you Boris and says that you need to return to your job as a deodorant tester, then that is who you are. It doesn’t matter who you thought you were in your mind. You accept the creative gift they have given you and treat it as your own. You springboard off of that idea and run with it. You never say, “No.” This is an immediate negation of your scene partner’s creativity and ideas. It is a pronouncement of your mistrust.

I’ve been performing improv for years now (my entire adult life, to be honest), and it has taken me until now to recognize that this principle applies to life. Truth be told, I have a tendency to be a “Negative Nancy.” This isn’t because I don’t trust other people or feel that what I have to say is more important. It stems from the fact that I tend to anticipate problems before they happen as a form of preparation. I suppose I’m in constant “disaster mode,” just in case. By the same token, I don’t take well to having those plans thwarted on a whim. And while this makes me prepared for any possible contingency, it also closes me off to others and what they have to say. I don’t like to admit it, but it’s true.

So, I’ve taken it upon myself to do a little experiment this week. At work, when someone brings up a new idea/change/request, I simply say, “Yes, and,” despite my overwhelming desire to say otherwise. “Brooke. I need you to change direction on that blog post.” Instead of saying, “Ooookay. I’m not sure I can do that. I spent X amount of time on it and we need to publish it before…” I will simply say, “Yes, no problem. And I’ll make sure that I get that draft to you before the end of the day.” Not only have I made myself seem open and affirmed what I’ve been asked, but I also buy myself some time to think about what I need to do, rather than tell all the unnecessary details to whomever has requested the change.

Long story short, be open. Let others help shape you when it is a group effort. Don’t be so stubborn because you think you’re right. Being obstinate is not the way to go. Besides, if others’ ideas turn out to be bad, you can always blame them (j/k) 😉

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