Solcana blog

yes-man1Remember when you were younger, when someone dared you to do something, you actually did it? You took risks, tried new things and explored the world around you with open eyes? Somewhere along the line, our adult brains take over and call this type of behavior childish and stupid; but is it stupid or are we afraid to look stupid?

I have been doing improv for about 8 years now, and I have learned a lot of lessons through improvised performance that have crossed over into my coaching and personal life. The first tenet of improv is to say yes, and; meaning that when your scene partner presents an idea, you agree that this idea is true, and offer more. Consider this scene:

Improviser 1: “Kevin, it looks like it’s going to rain”

Improviser 2: “Sure does, and I have an umbrella that could fit the both of us!”

Improviser 1: “That’s the very same umbrella I gave you for Christmas last year, I’ll buy you one every year so that you never run out”

When you take the yes, and approach in improv it means that you find new and incredible things in your scene work, you explore beyond the realm of possibility and you take the audience on a journey. It also means that you and your scene partner both feel supported and safe. Imagine the places this scene could go – we might see this man 5 years later with 5 umbrellas in his hands, desperately trying to keep track of each gift to please his friend. Such a silly and unexpected scenario could only come to fruition through the use of yes, and.

What if you responded to the scene differently? What if you took a no, because approach?

Improviser 1: “Kevin, it looks like it’s going to rain”

Improviser 2: “No it doesn’t, because it’s not even misty”

Improviser 1: “You’re a jerk Kevin”

When the second improviser responds with a no, because approach, they are negating the premise of the first improviser and therefore cutting the scene off at the knees. It also makes the other improviser feel unsupported and unheard. It means that when those two people leave the stage improviser 1 will say, “what the hell dude, why didn’t you have my back?” On stage, this scene will go nowhere. It will turn into an argument, and NO ONE in the world wants to watch other people argue. Just think of that couple in your life that ruins every party with their incessant bickering. Don’t be them.

So how can the yes, and approach apply to your real life? What would happen if you actively spent a day or a week saying yes, and instead of saying no, because?

You might lose your ego. We use ‘no, because’ as a way to shield ourselves from possible failure. If you never try, you can never fail. If you never try, you can protect your precious ego. CrossFitters know that instinctively when we enter the gym. On one rep max day, you don’t hear people say “I would try for 315# but I don’t want to in case I fail”; you hear people say maxims like “go big or go home!” Failure is a big part of doing CrossFit. You have to fail sometimes to get stronger, you have to try heavier weights to grow.

In the rest of our lives, we think of “no, because” as a tool to have control. We think that just because we say no means that we have power and that our opinions are important. However, as we learned from our sample improv scene, it also means that everyone around you thinks you are a jerk. Approaching life with a ‘no, because’ perspective is isolating and lonely. Consider this:

Person 1: “I was wondering, do you want to hang out tonight?”

Person 2: “No, because I am busy and have a million things to do”

Person 1: “Ok”

But Hannah, person 2 doesn’t have time to hang out, they are so busy! Why don’t you understand HOW BUSY THEY ARE. What if in this same scenario, you person 2 took a yes, and approach?

Person 1: “I was wondering, do you want to hang out tonight?”

Person 2: “Yes I would love to hang out with you, and I am totally free on Saturday at 3 pm. Can we make that happen?”

Person 1: “Yes, and I got a gift certificate to this great coffee shop. Drinks on me!”

Person 2: “Yes, and I will order some exotic tea because I am not a big coffee drinker”

Person 1: “Yes, I have been wanting to try some tea, and I will bring my headphones so we can listen to that song we both love”

The possibilities are endless. Notice how person 2 is not acquiescing, they are not changing themselves to please person 1, they are saying yes to the scenario presented and adding their own element. Person 2 doesn’t like coffee, that doesn’t mean they can’t go to a coffee shop. Person 2 is not available to hang out today, but how about Saturday at 3?

When we allow ourselves to say yes to ideas presented to us, we can actually contribute more. At work, when someone offers a project and we say “No”, nothing happens. There is an emptiness that is devoid of creativity and teamwork. If we say yes, and, there are a limitless possibilities to take that project and shape it into something amazing. Consider this:

Co-worker 1: “It would be great if we could expand our business by doing door-to-door sales”

Co-worker 2: “Yes, it would be great to expand our business through increased sales, and we could take that door to door idea and send representatives to local organizations that might need our services.”

Co-worker 1: “You’re a genius and I worship you”

Queens of yes, and
Queens of yes, and

You will be a better leader. Ok, so that last line might be an exaggeration, but I genuinely believe that taking the yes, and approach will make you an asset in every scenario. When you open yourself to ideas and possibilities by saying yes first, you actually have room to help shape ideas and possibilities to work for you. If you shut them down right off the bat, you are working from nothing, and everyone thinks you’re a jerk.

Your relationships with people will grow. It is not easy to balance a full life of activity and responsibility, and still be kind and generous to the people you love. It’s even harder to do so if you approach the ones you love with a ‘no, because’ attitude. When we fight and argue, we are the worst versions of our ‘no, because’ selves. Consider this:

Lover 1: “Hey, you didn’t do the dishes and you are inconsiderate”

Lover 2: “No I am not, because you’re the one who never folds the laundry, never cleans the litter box and doesn’t take the trash out”

Lover 1: “No, I don’t do those things because you don’t respect me”

EW. SO GROSS. ‘No, because’ brings out the worst in people. It makes us all mean girls. It’s so hard to take a ‘yes, and’ approach when there is anger involved, but what if we tried?

Lover 1: “Hey, you didn’t do the dishes and you are inconsiderate”

Lover 2: “Yes, you’re right, I didn’t do the dishes, and I didn’t even realize I was supposed to. That is not your fault, I had a long day at work and I completely forgot my chores. Yes, that looks so inconsiderate and I genuinely did not mean to make you feel so undervalued”

Lover 1: “Will you marry me?”

You will be a better person. Lover 1 was feeling real crappy in the above scenario. What if we said ‘yes, and’ to the times when our partners or friends are feeling terrible? Instead of getting into fights and petty arguments, we might actually find humility and grow into better people.

You can even say no to people using a ‘yes, and’ approach. It’s true. Consider this:

Person 1: “Hey Charles, I was wondering if you could help me move this weekend because you are so strong”

Person 2: “Yes, I am strong, and this weekend I will be taking some time to get some extra rest to heal my body and mind, so I can’t be there. I hope your move is great and I would love to come over next week and check the place out”

Person 1: “Charles, you’re the best. I hope you get some time to yourself, and I will see you next week”

You might even learn to say no more often. Yes, it’s true that saying no might be what you need to keep yourself happy, and it’s also true that you can say no through a ‘yes, and’ approach. The thing about the ‘yes, and’ approach that is that you are genuinely listening to the people around you. People need to be heard and validated. If you can listen to your friends and validate them while still maintaining personal boundaries and saying no when you need to, you will win at life.

Let me be clear, there are times when the word NO is important. There are times when standing up for yourself and shutting someone else down is essential to your preservation. There are times when people don’t deserve the yes, and approach because they are a big giant jerk. Please say no to those people.

Taking the yes, and approach means that every tiny decision in our lives can be a little moment of opportunity. Open yourself to possibility this year and enjoy the positive returns. What could you lose from taking the yes, and approach for one week? What could you gain?

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