Recently, I noticed that when I hear unwelcome news I say one thing – “Oh no!” Whenever I say it, I feel the resistance to whatever I’m hearing, the clench against what is happening. Since then, I’ve been playing with saying Yes. It might be, “Yes and I’m so sorry.” Or it might be, “Yes and I see I have no control over that.” Or, “Yes, that’s not what I expected and this can work, too!” There is power in Yes. This week, five mini-postlettes about just that.
I know next to nothing about improv theater except that it makes my stomach quivery and that when it’s done well, it’s amazing. I’ve heard tell that when in an improv situation, and your partner says something
“Let’s take a bus to Mexico!”
“I think I’ll wear paisley to the wedding”
“Can you believe she did that in the middle of the Kroger frozen foods aisle?”
the appropriate response is, “Yes, and….”
“Yes, and let’s take your mother! She’s always wanted to learn Spanish.”
“Yes, and I’ll wear my yellow suit with green high tops since those are the groom’s school colors.”
“Yes, and the police were very nice, don’t you think?”
In improv, NO is a dead end. NO stops the conversation.
YES, and… offers curiosity. YES, and…offers possibility. YES, and…is an adventure.
Uri Alon’s TED Talk, Why Truly Innovative Science Demands a Leap into the Unknown, tells how the “Yes, and…” that he finds works so well in theater works just as well in science. Imagine! Mad improv skillz in a research lab! You can watch it here.
It stands to reason if “Yes, and…” helps promote innovative science, “Yes, and…” can also promote innovative living. When someone says something unexpected or off-the-wall, experiment with saying “Yes, and…” and seeing where it takes you.
And if you want to hear about an incredible (and intense) improv adventure, listen to one of my favorite RadioLab podcasts, ever.