Stop the “yes… but” choose “yes… and”

By Morag Barrett on March 29, 2012

Posted by Morag Barrett | March 29, 2012Stop the “yes… but” choose “yes… and”I was working with an executive team in January, and as part of their program of events, they had requested that they wanted to “Do something fun, that will get us out of our comfort zone and have a laugh.”  It was music to my ears… that’s not to say that the rest of the event wasn’t all business, the team worked hard, reached new insights and made some critical decisions, this section of the agenda was all about getting away from the challenges of their organization.We recommended a number of options, however the one that caught the leaders attention, and I’ll admit, caused him to hesitate for a second (this was a senior team within a mining organization), was to do improvisational comedy.  I have had the opportunity to work with a number of great improv teams over the years, for this group we brought in a local Denver organization, ChickenLips.  Even their company name makes me chuckle.  The Chickenlips team came prepared with nearly a dozen different activities for us to take part in.  One thing I didn’t share was that this was a multinational team, we had participants from around the world, and for some, English is their second language.  Any concerns passed quickly, humor is a global phenomenon!  It was a great success, and quite a few belly laughs later, the team left more connected and with tales to share (our stage names were impressive!).So why does this come to mind now?  Well, I met with the group again last week and one of quotes from the ChickenLips activity had obviously resonated with the team as it was used several times during the meeting, sometimes light-heartedly and sometimes with real purpose and intent;  and the powerful phrase that was used… “yes…and”Think about the conversations and debates you have at work, I am sure you can readily identify the number of times you hear “yes…but” or “no…because” replies that end up stifling creativity and debate.  The power of “yes…and” is that it builds on ideas, it creates debate and increases collaboration and open dialogue.The power of “Yes…and” This activity hinged on using the phrase “yes..and” to build on the comments of the previous person, rather than our natural tendency to shoot things down and point out the faults, “yes…and” requires us to build on the suggestions and to move the conversation forward.  It emphasizes the importance of supporting new ideas.We paired up and decided who would be person A and who would be person B.  Person A then shared one sentence on a topic of their choice, just enough to start the conversation.  Person B then responds, followed by Person A, followed by B and so on until time was called.  We played three rounds, culminating with final round of  “yes…and”Round 1: Person B responds to Person A’s idea(s) with “No… but” or “no…because” and provided a reason why the suggestion wouldn’t work or wasn’t feasible.Round 2: Person B responds to Person A’s idea(s) with “Yes… but” and then provided another suggestion that they thought was more appropriate.Round 3: Person B responds to Person A’s idea(s) with “Yes… and” which served to acknowledge and build on A’s original idea.Unsurprisingly, rounds 1 and 2 didn’t last long, they weren’t fun, being “yes… butted” or “that wont work because” becomes tiresome, and energy flags.  However, with round 3 the noise level increased dramatically as each person tried to out “yes… and” each other.  There was a lot of laughter and creativity!I challenge you to try it in your next meeting.  Pick a work issue, whether it is a problem to solve, a decision to be made and see where “yes…and” can lead you.(side note, trying to describe an interactive event in a narrative is challenging! If this post has piqued your curiosity but you are not quite sure how this plays out, just call me 303 800 5442 and I’ll talk you through it!)Related ArticlesTags »communicationEmotional IntelligenceHigh Performing TeamTeam activities Share
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