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.
The Three Improv Concepts that will Transform Your Company Culture and Save You Money
I recently came across a shocking statistic in an article written by Niall McCarthy, Data Journalist for Forbes Magazine. The city of Seattle is ranked the tenth city in the entire nation for most hours per week worked by the average employee. According to Naill’s research, the average worker puts 47.23 hours per week in at the office/workplace. On top of that, according to Rachel Dicker in an article in the USNews, Seattle is ranked number 6 in the nation for most traffic congested cities in the nation.. and I’m thinking to myself, “that’s a lot of time spent going to, at, and coming home from the office!” Knowing what commute gridlock does to my sense of peace, (and I work from home), I had to wonder what mental state those people who commute to an office and back home every day are bringing to their teams at work, and their families at home. And what if their workplace is one of chaos, negativity or conflict? Well, that brings things to a whole new level altogether!
Since I am in the business of helping business reap the financial, morale and social benefits of employing an engaged, fulfilled and communicating workforce, I had to wonder: what is the effect of the crazy number of hours we’re putting in, and the stress that is commonly associated with being a part of a workforce? The complete answer to this question is three things: 1. Complex, 2. Unhelpful and 3. A very substantial financial loss to organizations from a lack of employee morale and productivity.
Maybe we can’t wave the magic wand and magically fix our traffic problems or disappear 5-10 hours off of our average workweek, but there are steps that companies and their employees can take to move the needle in a positive direction, towards creating your engaged, fulfilled and communicating workforce. Here are three of them, and they come from the world of theater Improvisation (Yes, Improv!)
Redefine FAILURE: Business Leaders, how do your managers who report to you, and the individual contributors who report to them react to their own personal failures and the failures of those who report to them? What is your relationship to failure? Human beings (being what they are) tend to close off, go internal, try to hide failures, labeling them ‘negative’ instead of opening up, becoming vulnerable, sharing the failure. You business leaders are smart so rather than telling you the rest, let me ask you; what’s the result of your, and your managers, default reaction to failure? If everybody’s reaction was one of opening up, becoming vulnerable and transparent for all to see and learn, what difference would that make?
Approach Your Interactions with Others with a ‘YES AND’ Mindset: ‘Yes And’ is about acceptance and addition. Consider for your next team meeting, devoting the entire meeting to employing a ‘Yes And’ mindset with everybody in that meeting, for the duration of that meeting. This is not to say be a “Yes person”, going along with every suggestion that everybody says. A ‘Yes And’ mindset is ACCEPTANCE = Regardless of if you subscribe to or agree with what’s being said, find a way to respond in any way other than one that is a shut-down of the other person. For example, you may know that adding an additional wing to the office is simply not possible in the 2018 budget, but rather than saying “That is not possible. We don’t have the budget for it.”, consider expressing agreement that things are cramped here in the office, AND offer your sincere desire (and perhaps a timeline) to work closely with them to come up with some good short-term solutions that will address and remedy this very valid problem. This is the ‘Yes And’ mindset, and it works because it shows the person your interacting with that you are actually listening to them, and that you honor them as evidenced by the fact that you see their concern as valid and you’re willing to take action on it, or even just continue the conversation on it.
Make the Other Person Look Good: Do you know why great stage improvisers seem so witty, brilliant, quick and entertaining? Here’s a clue: It’s not because they are particularly witty, brilliant, quick or funny as individuals. It’s because they are those adjectives as a TEAM. How are they that way as a team? They are that way because each and every individual on that improv team is doing everything for the others on their team. The individuals in a great improv troupe don’t seek the limelight, they don’t try to deliver the perfect one-liner, they only devote their full attention, their expression, their talent to one thing, making the other person look good. That’s the beginning and the end of it. Try this on for yourself for one day. I challenge you to devote one full day, from the buzz of the alarm clock to the clicking off of your bedside lamp, to making someone else look good, be the success, get the credit. Try it and write me and let me know what happened. I DARE YOU! 🙂
Of course, another amazing way to move the needle for your organization is to consider a conflict management workshop or workshop series with Improv Alive! We blend conceptual and experiential learning and deliver a powerful, immersive experience that gives your employees the tools they need to deal with difficult personalities and hard conversations in an effective and empowering way with tangible and measurable results in employee satisfaction and workforce productivity. Check out our cool video on Conflict Management.