I’ve taken a few Improv classes, and when you or your partner says Yes, the scene is fun! It might be weird, but it moves forward and it’s fun. When there’s a no, everything slows way down or stops and waits to go in another direction. It’s just awkward to be in and it’s awkward to watch.
Some of my favorite people have written about the power of Yes in life, including Tina Fey and Seth Godin.
Tina Fey wrote about how the Yes occurs in real life as respect or acknowledgement for what your partner brings to the table. It sounds simple, and you can almost miss the significance of it until you remember those conversations where people didn’t even acknowledge your position. They just blasted through with their own agenda. Their No just killed your willingness to participate in the conversation. You might continue because you have to, but the No can function like a pretty big spirit killer.
For improvisors, the rule is actually Yes AND.…. which is to say something that moves the conversation forward beyond just acknowledging the other person. If someone says “It sure is hot in here,” it’s one thing to say “No kidding!” and another to say “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.” The Yes AND is way more fun.
Seth Godin talks about Yes being an opportunity and a commitment to go forward. While there will plenty of people who are criticizing, nitpicking and recommending caution, it’s the person who says Yes who moves forward.
Yes, to completing work, Yes to moving forward, Yes to contributing in a way that matters, Yes to doing better.