The first rule of improvisation when performing on-stage is the idea of always saying (or thinking) ‘yes, and…’ to whatever another actor has said or done. This allows the action of whatever is happening on-stage to continue.
If the actors are in disagreement over what should happen next, without a script, there’s nowhere for them to go. They’re trapped in their inability to give and take from one another.
That’s what I want to talk about today. Mastering the art of ‘yes, and…’ does not have to live solely in the world of improv. In fact, with life being as unpredictable and unscripted as it is, it’s even more important to be able to listen to others and run with their ideas.
I’ll give you a few ideas for applying the idea ‘yes, and…’ in your everyday life, as well as talk about the importance of open-mindedness and flexibility.
The Importance of ‘Yes, And…’
Open-mindedness and the ability to be flexible are necessary for so many reasons. First, it allows you to see the world in a more positive, can-do way. Approaching situations by mastering the art of ‘yes, and…’ opens you and others up, whereas a flat ‘no’ will shut them down.
The ability to be flexible in our thinking opens us up to new possibilities, experiences, and people. We can be better friends, partners, and co-workers by being willing to see situations and even arguments from another person’s point of view.
Adopting a ‘yes, and…’ worldview can help bring you and other people in your life more fulfillment and improve your ability to communicate.
Note: I want to emphasize that there are some cases in which it’s important for your health and safety to say ‘no.’ ‘Yes, and…’ may not be appropriate in every situation in your life
1. Open-Minded Brainstorming
One specific situation in which ‘yes, and…’ is extremely necessary is when working with a group in order to brainstorm or problem-solve.
If people are too afraid to say anything or suggest an idea out of fear that they’ll be immediately rejected, the best ideas will go unsaid. It takes away the collaborative nature of the brainstorming process: allowing people to throw out ideas and build off of each other’s thoughts.
By saying ‘yes, and…’ to one another, you can come up with the best possible solution by working together.
2. Emotionally Supporting Someone
Sometimes, a friend, family member, or even co-worker may come to you during a difficult period in their life, looking for support. Using ‘yes, and…’ to talk about their feelings, if they’re ready, can help them feel validated and like you care about them.
Even if you have to gently remind them of some uncomfortable facts in order to be honest and genuine with them, recognizing their thoughts with a ‘yes, and…’ approach will make a difficult conversation more productive.
On the contrary, trying to negate the way they feel may make them more upset and hurt. It may tell them that what they’re feeling isn’t real, which is the quickest way to ensure that someone won’t come back to you for emotional support again.
3. Trying New Hobbies
What would it look like to open yourself up to new experiences when they present themselves? If a friend invites you to take a yoga class with them, something you’ve never done before, your gut may tell you to immediately say no. It’s an unknown situation, which has the potential to be uncomfortable. Why would you want to subject yourself to discomfort?
What if you took a ‘yes, and…’ approach instead? It might look something like, ‘yes, I will go to the yoga class with you, and I’ll have fun and laugh at myself instead of getting flustered or embarrassed.’
Living life openly allows you to find more satisfaction overall. You won’t feel fulfilled if you’re doing the same things every single day, never straying away from what’s familiar.
And, who knows? You may even realize you like yoga!
4. Chasing Your Dreams
Have you always dreamed of starting your own business or working in an industry completely different from the one you’re currently in? Have you also been using the phrase, ‘yes, but…’ when thinking about these goals?
For example, ‘yes, I want to be my own boss and start a business that I believe in, but I don’t have the knowledge or resources to get started.’
By thinking this way, you’ve essentially cut yourself off from the idea that it could possibly happen.
Instead of shutting yourself down, try adjusting your mindset:
‘Yes, I want to be my own boss and start a business that I believe in, and I’ll need to find someone who can help me navigate this new experience.’
Now, not only have you accepted your dreams and allowed them the space to be real, you’ve also started building a preliminary plan that will take effect as you begin to act.
Taking Steps Toward Mastering the Art of ‘Yes, And…’
Being open-minded to the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of others, as well as yourself, can bring high satisfaction into your work and life, as well as strengthen your relationships.
I know that adopting this mindset is easy enough to talk about, but much harder to put into practice. It takes a lot of time and hard work to completely change our worldview.
That’s why I’m here to help you. If you need some ideas for how you can begin your journey of open-mindedness and ‘yes, and…,’ I’d love to work with you. Together, we can create an action plan to help you grow and achieve your goals over time. Get in touch with me for more information.