How to "Yes, and..."
So this next lesson, How To "Yes, And" Like An Improviser, is near and dear to our hearts as improvisers because, as I said earlier, "tes, and" is kind of how it all gets going. It's kind of the fuel in the engine, if you will. And really, "yes, and" can be explained in so many different ways, but my simple definition is you're basically accepting someone's idea and building off of it. And that's sometimes really hard to do in our daily lives and in the workplace. A lot of people come into the meeting or maybe come into the conversation with you at home, whether it's a significant other or a roommate, and just have that No Hat already on, and "yes, and" is easier said than done I think, sometimes, in real life. But today, we're just gonna kinda try it, just for the sake of it, just so we can see how easy it is and how we actually can do it a lot more than we probably think. And the way that we're going to do this first is the two of us are gonna demo. We're just gonna do a simple scene...
exercise, we're basically gonna say "yes, and" preceding every sentence, and, just to kick us off, I think we're just gonna pretend like we're going on a little vacation, maybe.
Awesome, love it.
And then we'll just go back and forth. And what we're doing right now, it's not for performance sake. We're not trying to get it right, we're not trying to tell the world's greatest story or make some kind of point. Again, this is like revving up the "yes, and" engine, and it'll probably go to some fun and weird places, but we don't care where it goes. Again, it's about being spontaneous. And then, after we do this, we'll have some volunteers pop up as well.
So, remember that time when we went to Australia?
Yes, and do you remember we went into the cage and went shark diving, like we've always wanted to do?
Yes, and I was so terrified that you put your arms out and were trying to pet them.
Yes, and the sharks then thought that I was one of them, and I got to go swim with sharks as a shark.
Yes, and I stayed in the cage and never saw you again until right now.
Yes, and I became queen of the sharks. I have this beautiful cave that I live in, and I am, essentially, a shark that can breathe underwater.
Yes, and I believe all sharks can breathe underwater, but you can also breathe on land, because your cave is actually right underneath the Sydney Opera House, isn't it?
Yes. Yes, and it means that when I'm in my cave I can hear beautiful music, so I feel like I'm with the people, but I get to spend time with the beautiful, scary sharks.
Yes, and I'm just so happy for you, even though it was at my own expense that you left me, so, thank you.
All right. Give her a round of applause. (applause) Give each other a round of applause. So, very simple, you're just basically taking in the information, not saying no. Sometimes, maybe, there's something there you play off of, and I like to think of it as everything we say, and maybe do and feel, but say, particularly, in daily life and conversation, think of it as like a web page, and each word or phrase is like a hyperlink you can click on. In a world where we are clicking and tapping all day long, it's, I think, a really good way to think about words and the way people speak to you, because you can actually just go "Boop!" and just go to a whole different page. Because when she said shark it made me think this, and when I said that it made her think this, and we just kept going, and that's how conversation works. But if you start to really kinda look at it that way, you can see how you can listen to each other and build off of ideas, instead of stare blankly at someone and go, "Now she's done talking, here's what my idea is," which is how, a lot of times, especially brainstorms in meetings go. So how can you just really be present and just go off of what the person just said right in front of you, and that's what "yes, and" is really good at doing. So, after we demo'd that, I would love to see if anybody would like to come up here and try it with a partner. You're gonna be up and down all day, if you are physically comfortable and capable, and I would love to see somebody try it. So do we have our first volunteers? Just pop right up. We're gonna applaud when they come up--
We have one! We have one! Alva! Woo!
because it feels good to have applause, thank you! And we need someone to join her.
Make Alva look good, yeah.
Thank you, all right.
Thank you, Jon.
Wonderful. Here's the thing, all of this really comes down to communication, presentation, public speaking. We're using improv thinking to optimize those skill sets. So I do want you, every time you get up, or sometimes we'll be doing exercises where you're seated, I want you to take this opportunity to think about this as a public speaking experience. So, before we even get going, just really quickly, maybe, just tell us your name.
Jonathan, Alva. All right. So you're gonna do the same thing, we're gonna do it twice, so each one of you has the experience of basically coming up with your dream vacation location. So, one of you's gonna say, "Remember that time we went to blank?" And then the other person's gonna say, "Yes, and," and you're just gonna go back and forth for about a minute, and I'll time it for you, and then I'll kinda come in and I'll just stop it with applause, if that's okay, so I don't cut you off. So, we'll do that twice, and each one of you will start it. So, go ahead.
Remember the time we went to Paris?
Yes, and we ate croissants the first day and drank espresso.
Yes, and then we drank a lot of red wine, so much red wine that the bartender came out and...
And the bartender was so impressed that we drank 3 liters of wine (laughter) between the two of us that he gave us an award.
He gave us an award, a special award for Americans, crazy Americans (laughter) who drink so much that they're under the bar.
They drink so much that they're under the bar, usually, and we eventually got there, too. And do you know what we found under the bar?
We found Frenchmen under the bar. (laughter)
It's true, they all had those neat tams on their heads, and spoke just in language so fast that I could barely understand it.
And of course, they were smoking cigarettes under the bar.
It's true, they were smoking cigarettes, and I wanted one, and I was looking around for anybody who would offer me a cigarette, and finally they took my clues and stuck one in my mouth. (applause and cheering)
I know, it was beautiful.
All right, great. So, before we jump in, let's see. Is anyone noticing anything? Obviously, we're focusing on just accepting and building off someone's idea, but what are you noticing, and what did you like about what they did?
You just have really great energy. The two of you were interacting in a really playful, comfortable way, which was nice to see.
Wonderful. Anything else?
I liked that it wasn't just "yes, and", it was the continuation of the story without that "yes, and" phrase. The same idea, but it was very natural.
Yeah, think of "yes, and" as a training wheel, especially for those of you watching at home. It's just a training wheel to get you into the habit of accepting and building off of ideas, and, naturally, we internalize it. That's why "yes, and" is such a revolutionary idea and concept to some people, because they don't literally say "yes, and", but we internalize it and we do it naturally, especially when we're in a playful mode. So, let's flip around. Whoever did not get to say where they wanted to go, let's do it one more time for about a minute.
Remember that time when we went to Bali?
Oh Bali, I'd always wanted to go because you'd gone so many times, and you told me about that little man.
The little man who lived next to the chapel. Well, they don't call it a chapel, they call it an ashram.
I thought, yes. A chapel ashram brothel, right?
Oh, it's so true. (laughter) A chapel ashram brothel. And the little man had this enormously bushy hair, and he showed us through the ashram brothel.
Yes, the ashram chapel where you taught me about that rite, that interesting rite they have at the brothel chapel.
Yes, they do have that interesting rite that I taught you about. It was how do they change the teachers from the ashram into becoming brothel workers?
All right, to be continued. (applause and laughter) Wow, early in the morning, but it's getting weird. Thank you, take a seat both of you, and let's talk about that for a second.
Yay, thank you. That's gonna be a Lifetime Movie, I feel like.
Maybe a movie. Loved it.
So, let's talk a little bit about your experience and how that felt, because you were, the two of them. First of all, give them a round of applause for being courageous, jumping up. You will do the same. Again, making each other feel good and look good, a part of it is just saying, "Hey, thanks for getting up and doing that and trying it." So, how did it feel to "yes, and" with a partner?
I was really glad that we made eye contact early on. That helped me feel like we were really connected, and I just really tried to focus on what you were saying. I think I did, and now I'm feeling the impact of it. I'm feeling kind of nervous now, but... Yeah, it was really fun. It was like an adventure.
It was like an adventure. All right. And how did you feel?
Yeah, we were lucky, we actually met a few minutes before, and we connected before. And I agree, that whole thing about actually switching from the focus on yourself to the other person was fun, Now I'm a little nervous, but was less nervous when we were up there together.
Interesting, so both of you feel more nervous now that you're done. And what is that about, you think?
Well, I felt a little nervous before I volunteered to get up, but I thought, "Okay, I don't wanna leave the two of you up there waiting." (laughter)
Thank you, yes.
So part of that is, for me, was saying, let's let you enjoy this time, as well as us.
I think you helped me be less nervous because you were so engaged, and focusing on me, that it took my perception out of myself.
Yeah, that's a great point. I wrote up there, not trying to put words in anyone's mouth, but trying to capture some of the things that were gonna say today, less nervous with a partner. A lot of times this idea of making the other person feel supported, it does kinda flip a switch, mentally and emotionally, where you're just like, "Oh, I just want Kimberly to do well." I could still be nervous. If I could diagnose how I'm feeling, I'm still nervous, but I'm thinking about it less because I'm thinking more about her, and that seems to be what you two were talking about. And so, for the people at home, that's something that you can do, too. It's a very simple exercise, you can do it with anyone. You basically just say, "Remember that time we went to wherever," and you just "yes, and", "yes, and", "yes, and", and there's all kinds of different ways to improve your "yes, and" skills, if you will, but this is a very simple way to kind of get it going and just learn how to do it with a partner.
And I think one of the things that is attached to this being less nervous with a partner, and the power of using "yes, and" as a tool, especially when we're working with other people, or we're brainstorming, or we're in a meeting and we're ideating, is that, when we say "no," the conversation ends, right? If I say, "Do you remember the time we went to Fiji," and you go, "Nope," well, there's nowhere to go, the story is over. And that's true in a meeting, as well. If I say, "Hey, I have an idea, what if we only use yellow post-its?", and someone says no, the conversation is over. I'm also less likely to want to go to that person with ideas. I feel less comfortable, right? So, it sort of builds a wall for us. A lot of people say "Yes, but," which is really just a fancy no, right? So, if I say, "I'd love to use only yellow post-its," and the response is, "yes, but," now we're in a negotiation, and those are often the times you leave a meeting, or you leave a situation, where you feel like you accomplish something and then, a few minutes later, you realize you have no idea what you accomplished. And you feel like, well, you heard the word yes, but nothing was accomplished, right? You didn't get to an end goal. So, using "yes, and" means we're gonna follow one thread, and within that thread of brainstorming we may discover something perfect and magical. There may be a no at the end of that conversation, but the idea is that were gonna follow this thread together and see where it takes us. And it means I set my agenda aside, and get to just listen to this idea and follow it. And then, maybe after, we look at my agenda, and we follow one of my ideas. But it really allows us to be more open, to feel more supported, and to have a safe environment to share and ideate, and that's where magical things come from.