If you’re into improv I’m sure you know the principle of “yes and…”. If not, “yes and…” is the foundation of improvisation which means to agree and accept whatever is being communicating and add to it.
When I started improv, this concept was difficult for me to grasp. It was probably the hardest thing I struggled with because it required giving up control over what I wanted to happen next. I felt like I had the scene already played out in my head and the other person was wrong. It was uncomfortable for me to accept the other person’s ideas. I had this wall up and it took several painful tries with intent focus to just say “yes” and agree with them.
When I finally embraced the idea of “yes, and…”, not only did my scenes get better, but my whole life changed. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the first step into using improv in life.
So, what does “yes and…” communicate and why is it so important in our everyday lives?
“Yes and…” means to be completely open to what the other person is communicating (either verbal or nonverbal). Whatever the other person is saying, you accept that as fact. In life, this is the same as accepting the other person’s opinion as their world view. That’s how they think the world works. You’re saying “I accept you for who you are. You can be yourself around me.”
It lets the other person know that you understand how they are feeling. It’s the equivalent of “Hey I see you, I acknowledge what you’re saying and how you’re feeling.” You’re being empathetic towards what they’re saying.
Just because you let someone’s opinions affect you, doesn’t mean that you have to change. It might not affect you, but it could also change the way you think about things. Once I realized I had the power to decide whether or not someone’s words affected me, I became more relaxed and was able to listen better.
It conveys a positive attitude. Who would you rather be around: someone who’s happy when they speak with you, or someone who’s negative? ‘Nuff said.
“Yes, and…” allows the story to continue. Saying “No, or “yes, but” stops the conversation. Picture a group of friends joking around and each person has a funny quip that inspires another person. What would happen if one of them says “No. That’s wrong.”? How would that affect the energy?
It forces you to be vulnerable. That might sound scary to most, but without being vulnerable, you’re not allowing anyone to get to know you. You’re basically trusting the other person with personal information about you. You’re building rapport or trust with people the longer the conversation goes. It is the ultimate engagement tool.
Learning, accepting, and using “Yes, and…” though, was probably the single greatest point of my personal growth. It helped me feel more relaxed and confident. It helped me have fun.
“If you’re not having fun, you’re the a*****e” – Susan Messing
“Yes, and…” took a long time for me to grasp. It was way out of my comfort zone.
What’s the greatest change of your personal growth?