The “Yes, and…” approach to life

When was the last time you shared what you thought to be a brilliant idea only to feel deflated when the person on the receiving end replied with something less than uplifting?

Or maybe YOU are the one who meets joy with deflation?

When someone operates from a negative outlook, everything is viewed through the lens of “glass is half empty” vs “glass is half full.”

A person who operates from this perspective might see which ingredient is missing from the generous meal a friend made before acknowledging the work put into creating such an experience. This same person might hear their friend share a dream and instead of meeting with encouragement and curiosity that dream is met with skepticism and doubt.

Being grounded and realistic is necessary and even helpful at times, but when we are in the phase of exploration and dreaming, being yanked down to the realities of Earth impedes possibility.

A concept I adore that has evolved my relationship to others’ joy and idea-sharing is something I learned while taking improv classes in New York. It’s something you can implement when brainstorming a new project, planning a trip, or even sharing with your partner.

I call it "Yes, and..."

You see, the #1 rule in improv is “always agree”. When improvising, this means you agree with whatever your improv partner creates.

So, if I’m improvising and I say “Look! A butterfly’s on my nose!” And as my improv partner, you reply with “No, that’s not a butterfly! That’s just your nose,” well… the scene halts.

But – if I say “Look! A butterfly’s on my nose!” and you say, “WOW! I love that butterfly. Let’s be one with the butterfly and fly!”

Now we have momentum. There’s forward action and the scene can go in any direction.

This is a silly example, but I hope you can see how this concept translates to life off the stage too.

In real life we of course won’t always agree with everything everyone says, but if we can remember to honor and value what the other person shares and start with a yes, we can move from that place of open-mindedness. This will not only feel better but will lead to more possibility than a close-minded, disagreeing “no.”

I always find it offputting to come across people who respond to everything with negativity and a “no” first without even giving space for curiosity. “Oh great you got that new job, but wow, it’s so far away, you’ll lose money on gas.” “No, we can’t make that happen tonight.” “No, there’s not enough money for that.” Such a joy suck.

The next part of this whole concept is the “and” piece. After you validate the other person’s share with an open-minded “yes,” now it’s your turn to contribute. On the improv stage if I say “I’m so hungry!” and you just respond with “I know,” well, again, the scene is halted. There’s nowhere to go from here. But – if I say “I’m so hungry!” and you say “me too! Let’s go pick some vegetables from the garden,” now we have forward momentum.

In real life, this concept of “yes, and…” is transformative.

Often we want to hold control of conversations and think that being closed off and saying “no” fosters more power. But really, it’s a turn-off for all.

When we are open to others’ expressions, we are gifted with unexpected positive outcomes. Every human on Earth wants to feel seen and heard and when they are, expansion in all ways is possible. My mom always says “you can attract more bees with honey.”

Here’s your challenge.

Every time your partner or colleague or anyone shares with you, try responding with the energy of a yes (!) first. Validate their share. Then, contribute to their share in a meaningful, progressive way.

Life mimics art.

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