The powerful difference between saying "Yes, and" Y "If goal"

In improv comedy, there is a concept called “yes and”. ‘Yes and’ is a two-part idea. The first part is that no matter what you say or do, I am going to say “yes” to you, thus accepting everything you have offered me. The second part is that I will add what I mean by saying ‘and’, thus building on what you said. As an exercise, two artists can have a scene in which everything they say begins with the words “yes and”. Beginning artists struggle with this, as the concept of agreeing and working with another person is relatively foreign to them.

The opposite of “yes and” is “yes, but”. The first part of this concept is exactly the same as ‘yes and’, where no matter what I say I will say ‘yes’. In the second part, I will say “but” instead of “and”. This one word difference has the dramatic effect of completely changing the discussion. ‘Yes and’ is a conversation; ‘yes, but’ is an argument.

When you say ‘yes but’ your ‘yes’ is just lip service. What you’re really saying is ‘yes, I hear you, but I don’t care’. If I’m talking about something with you, we can both say the exact same phrase over and over again if we start with ‘yes, but’. (‘I hate the beach!’ ‘Yes, but I really want to go to the beach today!’ ‘Yes, but I hate the beach!’ – and to infinity.) ‘Yes and’ forces me to work with others and work towards positivity. (‘I hate the beach!’ ‘Yes, and I think the park would be a better option!’ ‘Yes, and in the park we could play baseball!’ – and so on)

The amazing thing is how easy the exercise is when you play it as “yes, but”. As people, we are much more conditioned to argue and nail our heels than we are to accept and work together with others. Think of some discussions you have regularly. Most likely, both parties will say “yes, but.” Even if the words themselves are not literally said, the intention of ‘yes, but’ is surely there.

‘Yes and’ is really a way of thinking. Open your mind, help you listen, and create a great supportive environment. Give it a try the next time you’re in a discussion and see how it helps.

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