Yes-and1“Yes! And…”

Two words every improvisor strives to live by. Two words that represent one of the founding principles of improv. Two words that are given so much importance that they cannot be negotiated. We are trained to live, eat, breath and sleep “Yes!And…” We are told that saying  “No” is denying the gifts offered to us by others. But there is an undeniable truth rooted in the concept of “Yes! And…” that requires us to say “No”. Before I’m branded an improv heretic, let me explain!

I’ve entered a scene and begin to dribble a basketball. My scene partner enters and says, “What a cute kid!”, making the assumption that I’m patting a child on the head. I have two choices. I can say, “It’s a basketball, Dummy!”, thereby denying the gift he just offered, or I can so NO to my own idea and accept that I am now patting a kid on the head and move the scene forward, creating something together.

In the real world, I may be approached by a co-worker who has an idea on a brand or product line extension. I just happen to have my own ideas, which I can either force upon him, ignoring the offer he/she has made OR I can choose to, in that moment, acknowledge the offer as valid (Yes!) and collaborate on moving their idea forward (And…).  There will be another opportunity to explore my own ideas and it’s possible that synergies exist and will organically manifest themselves as we work together on the common goal of developing new product line extensions.

To say yes always requires saying no to other things. This is why some people never reach their full potential, they don’t say no enough, they refuse to go through the very difficult processing of narrowing how they exert themselves and spend their energies. It sounds nice to keep your options open, but if you want to do something great, at some point you say no to those options because you’ve said yes to this one thing you’re focusing your energies on.