Approaching a dialogue with a YES–AND mindset requires two things from you, to YES and to AND.
First the YES: YESing someone in a conversation requires you to make it a point, for the duration of the conversation, to consciously, completely focus on what the other person is communicating to you and nothing else. In order to YES someone, you must set aside your agenda (your desire to affect an outcome that achieves your goal or desire), and really, truly, genuinely listen to them. In the act ofYESing someone, you are fully focused on them, considering everything they are saying, and disengaging the mental process of judging the value of what’s being said, or determining if you agree or disagree. You are simply listening without judgement or agenda. You’ve done this effectively whenthe person you’re speaking with experiences the sense that they have been heard and that you have considered what they have said. That’s the ‘YES’ part.
Now the AND part: ANDing is adding to the conversation in a way that will not be received by the other person as your being antagonistic, negative, attacking, or a dismissive of what they are saying. When ANDing someone, you are only adding to or building on the conversation with responses that are constructive and that support the other persons’ feeling that you are listening to them and that you authentically value they’re contribution to the conversation. You’ve done this effectively whenthe person you’re speaking with experiences that you get the importance of what they are saying, and you are enrolled with them in improving or resolving the problem.
YES-ANDing may often look like agreement, but it certainly doesn’t have to. In a conversation, it is not just being a Yes Man, agreeing with everything everyone says; it’s an exercise, an activity in which you commit to 1. Listen to and2. Build on someone else through conversation with them. The hardest part of practicing the YES-AND mindset in real life is getting past our desire to be right, or to get what we want from the conversation. ‘Letting someone else win’ is usually not a comfortable thing to do, however, the value of deliberately engaging in the YES-AND mindset with someone is that you will have the opportunity to observe and experience what effect this ‘unnatural’ approach has on the conversation, and on the relationship as people begin to trust the new dynamic and enjoy conversations with you. The effect, very often, is an increased capacity to listen (by all parties in the conversation), and an increased sense of respect and willingness to further open up and engage in dialogue.
For more on Yes And from a number of another respected authorities on the subject, check out this article on the IRC Improv Wiki.
Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien on Improvisationally Speaking
Improvisationally Speaking: Episode 4 with special guest, Seattle City Councilmember, Mike O’Brien
Seattle City Councilmember, Mike O’Brien has a tough but rewarding job. As a council member, it is his job to serve his constituency and to do what he knows in right. But sometimes doing both of these at the same time is impossible. How does he communicate effectively and effect the kind of change he is charged to bring to the city of Seattle while being under the microscope of the public eye? This discussion reveals some of Mike O’Brien’s methods, and they are surprisingly based on the principles of improvisation.
Your workforce is under pressure. Each employee is doing the job of two, and the responsibility feels like stress. You’re starting to notice a drop in morale, which goes hand in hand with a drop in workforce efficiency. Getting your leaders and teams to engage in improv at work is one of the best ways to turn stress to joy and boost morale. Here’s another terrific, easy-to-play game that breaks the ice, encourages a team-centric focus, and is more fun than a photobombing seal:
The Name Game is a simple, fun and effective game to be played by 6-30 people. Here’s THREE versions of it to try out:
The Name Game I, II & III:
Breaking the ice, Focus & Concentration (6+ people)
I. Everyone in a circle. Doug says his own name and points to Alice, Alice says her name and points at Brian.. until everybody’s name has been said several times.
II. Doug points at Alice and says her name, etc.. (if the wrong name is said, the pointed tells their name and we move on).
III. Begins by starting a rhythm (group snapping their fingers). Doug says his own name and Alice’s name, Alice says her name and Brian’s name.., hence passing the focus around the group in rhythm.
Getting your teams at work to engage in theatrical improvisation is one of the best ways to break the ice when you’re introducing one group to another, or striving for more of a sense of teamsmenship within a group. Sometimes, the mere mention of the words “We’re gonna do Improv!” can strike fear in the hearts of many. It’s important to start the event with a game that is light, fun, and quickly defuses the angst.
NAME & GESTURE is a simple, fun and effective game that I learned at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York City. Here’s how it works:
Name & Gesture:
Everyone forms a large circle. The first (brave) person says their name and does an associated bodily gesture to accompany their name. For example, the 1st player (let’s say Scott) says “Scott”, and slaps his thigh. Then EVERYBODY in the circle repeats “SCOTT!” and slaps their own thigh. Then, the player to the right of Scott, (let’s say, Ellen) says “SCOTT!” and slaps her thigh, and then says “ELLEN!”, and spins around in a circle. 1-by-1, all the way around the circle, each plays says the previous names & gestures of all the previous players, ending with their own name & gesture. This goes all the way around the circle. Finally one brave soul must do the names & gestures of the ENTIRE circle.