If you’ve been exposed to improv, you’ve probably heard of, or experienced this thing called “Yes, and….” It’s the core skill of improv.
Here’s the smallest of nutshells if this is new to you: As improvisers, our task is to create with our partner(s) seamlessly and fluidly in the moment. We do this by accepting everything our partner says or does in the scene we’re creating. The “yes” is accepting what they give us. The “and” is building on it and moving the scene forward. This is an amazing tool to create in-the-moment. Everyone feels equal, supported, and great things get created.
So how does this skill/practice live in the “real world?” How can you “yes, and…” someone when you know that the answer is “no?”
Step one is that you have to want to. You can’t be looking for a “technique” to placate them, or to let them down easily. You have to want to hear them, to understand them, to work with them. You’re looking for a win/win.
I remember a few years ago we were painting our living room. I had found an amazing faux-finish idea that I wanted to use. This deep, rich, textured red. It was incredible. Best idea ever! And my wife had found this sort of Tuscan yellow. We each said our idea. And we began to lobby for our own ideas. Then we stopped and took a collective breath.
“You like the yellow,” I said, taking in her choice.
“Hmmm…. You like the faux-finish red,” she said, taking in my idea.
And we sat there. We sat in our difference, taking it all in.
That was the “yes”. Acknowledging our partner’s choice/desire. In life, the “yes” is often acknowledging someone’s experience, emotion, or desire. You’re not literally saying “yes” to it, but you’re acknowledging it. I didn’t say “Yes, let’s use your color,” because that wasn’t true for me. But I did say “yes, that’s what you want. I can see your desire.”
So we sat there looking at our 2 choices. Still not lobbying for our own, just staying open and feeling our partner’s desire. As we looked at the 2 colors, it began to occur to us that they went really well together. They complimented each other really nicely.
End of story? 2 walls were Tuscan Yellow, 2 walls were faux-finish red. It looked great! WAY better than either one would have looked. THAT was the “yes, and….” that we found by staying open and starting with the “yes”.
Always look for the “yes.” There’s always something you can “yes.” The “and” might be tougher, but if you start with a “yes” everything will be smoother, and you just might find that creative solution that no one thought of.