The Genius of Yes, And

 In Blog

Radio and podcast teams and ensemble casts are improvisational shows. “Yes, and” is the central concept for improv comedy. When a player introduces a topic, the other players must say “yes” to it and build on the discussion by adding something new.

Let’s say the host says, “That was a severe thunderstorm last night.” The second player might say, “Yes, it blew down a tree in our yard!”

We hear many shows do the opposite of “Yes, and” and block conversations. To the above example, a player might say, “Not really, it wasn’t severe at my house.” A comment like that shuts down the forward motion of the discussion.

Other forms of blocking that don’t move the conversation forward include paraphrasing the topic such as, “Yeah, the storm was really severe.” Filler words and phrases like, “wow,” “really,” “uh, huh,” “no kidding,” etc. stall the dialogue.

You can disagree after accepting the subject. You could say, “Yes, the storm was severe, however, it wasn’t nearly as severe as the one we had a week ago.”

“Yes, and” in coaching
Many programmers and managers tend shut down an idea immediately. Even if the idea sounds off base, be receptive to it. Accept the idea in theory by saying something like, “Let’s expand on this idea and see how we could make it work.” Often when a team explores the possibilities of an idea, it eventually works.

“Yes, and” in brainstorming
“Yes, and” is also central to the brainstorming process. The leader encourages the free sharing of ideas. Participants are not allowed to judge any ideas until the group expands on an idea without limitation. Staying open to and exploring ideas energizes the room, whereas shooting down ideas puts a damper on thesession.
“Yes, and” in business
Businesses and corporations grapple with branding dilemmas like purpose or profits. In James Collins and Jerry Porras’s book Built to Last, they recommend what they call “the genius of AND.”

Instead of having to choose between having a purpose OR profit, embrace both extremes of an idea. For instance, your company could have a purpose such as supporting the environment AND a pragmatic pursuit of profit.

Whether you’re on a show or talking to someone in real life, “Yes, and” is key to the art of conversation. You can practice building on conversations by being an active listener. Your relationship with an audience will improve, and so will all your relationships.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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