The power of “yes, and”

In the world of improv, the key to a successful skit is the phrase “yes, and.”

If I start crawling around on the floor and tell you I'm a squirrel, the skit will come to a screeching halt if you tell me that no, you're not a squirrel, you're Kim. 

You just slammed the door on my creativity and we're forced to start over. 

What I love most, besides trying my hand at the occasional improv skit, is that “yes, and” leaves you open to possibilities. Rather than challenging the other person in the group, you’re embracing her idea and building on it. The attitude of yes feels collaborative and open. 

I think about interactions with my four-year-old nephew when he digs his heels in, which he is really good at doing. I ask him if he wants to get a bath, and he doesn't just say no, he screams it, turns red in the face and crawls into the dog crate. (You can argue that I probably shouldn't ask him to take a bath, but I'm the Auntie so I'm still learning). 

His no changes the entire atmosphere in the house. 

Think about the last work meeting you were at when someone shot down an idea during a brainstorming session. If you throw out a concept to your boss and he immediately tells you no, it can feel almost like a slap in the face. He's not just saying no to you; it feels like he doesn't value you. 

No has it’s place. Saying no to more work or more volunteering when you’re already overtaxed is important.  

But carrying forward that attitude of "yes, and" fosters the environment for change, creativity, and collaboration. It leaves the door open for possibilities.

And sometimes just leaving that door open a crack is all it takes for big change to happen. We talk a lot as coaches about creating the environment to make change. Change is hard. Change is scary. And you can’t always force yourself to make changes.

Doug wrote a post last week about being coachable. Being coachable means being open to change - even if you're not quite ready to make that change in the moment.