“Yes, and…” is a rule of thumb taught in improv comedy circles. The idea: to accept what a fellow improver has said in a scene (“yes”), “and” add on to it to keep the story moving forward. For example:
Person A: “Those shoes are absolutely huge on you Jack!”
Person B: “I know, I know. I like the way they make my large calves look smaller.”
I first learned of “yes, and…” six years ago while taking improv comedy lessons with friends. It’s a useful trick to help beginner improvisers propel a scene forward and hopefully with it, humor.
The idea of using “yes, and…” outside of improv didn’t come to mind until early last year when one of my mindfulness teachers referenced it during a training.
We tend to narrow our attention to focus on one thing at a time. For example, you want to get home after a long day of work. Finally, you get home, only to find that the kids have caused a ruckus and the house is a mess. Your attention is no longer on the relief of being home, but on the disaster you’ve arrived home to.
You might say to yourself, “I’m glad to be home, but the house is a mess.”
The word “but” negates everything that came before it. The focus becomes the latter part of the statement.
As my teacher talked through this example, I was hit with a realization. I use the word “but” often — in how I speak to myself and how I communicate with others.
“I’m glad to be home. And the house is a mess” is a completely different statement.
Using “yes, and…” is not just a great rule of thumb for improv. It’s a brilliant phrase to use in every day life. It allows us to hold multiple truths. “Yes, I really am glad to be home after a long day at work. And also, the house is a mess.” Both can exist.
Replacing “but” with “and” is the most powerful way I know way to expand your mind in an instant.
Give it a try.