In improv comedy there’s a principle known as “Yes, And.” Here’s how it works: at the beginning of the scene, Character #1 begins by establishing a setting and plot, and then Character #2 accepts the premise and adds onto the situation. It might sound something like this:
#1: “Man, this authentic Mexican food ain’t no joke!”
#2: “Dude, did you just eat a jalapeno because you have flames coming out the top of your head!?”
The key to making this happen – the only way it works – is if each of the characters accept everything their partner has said, and build on it. In the example above, if #2 had said something like “my food isn’t hot,” the whole scene comes to a screeching halt.
Since life is just one big improv comedy show anyway, I bet we can apply this same theory to our relationships. What if instead of trying to one-up each other, we actually accepted what was put out there by our people, celebrated with them, and added to their joy? What if we kept their momentum going instead of derailing their excitement? I think you’re going to want to find yourself a tribe who gets this.
In order to start with a ‘yes’ you’ve got to stop talking long enough to hear. Listening requires us to set aside what we think someone is going to say in order to fully take in everything someone’s words and face are communicating to us. Even if you don’t completely agree, ‘yes’ looks like digging deep enough into what they are sharing to understand their point of view. It might not always mean “Yes, you’re right,” but if you can muster a “yes, I hear you,” that might just be enough to build a bridge.
The ‘And’ part is fun. The ‘And’ is where you can show you were listening, you can build off of what they are sharing, and you can move deeper into friendship. ‘And’ is where you continue to help them build their case, you help them prove their point, you look for more good where they already found one little good nugget. ‘And’ is not your chance to steer the conversation toward you, but an opportunity to continue to shine the light on and add value to the other person. When I think about Yes, And, I picture an enthusiastic choir director who is moved by the spirit and wants the choir to sing the chorus again and again. He’s bouncing to the beat, grinning from ear to ear, a smile so big his eyes are just slits, and he’s swinging his arm in a wild, ongoing circle, gesturing more! Yes! Keep going! And more! And again! Yes!
Instead of a place where we compare and condemn, I think social media could become the perfect place to practice this Yes, And theory. What would happen if we weren’t jealous when our friends posted pics of their well behaved kids or their date night or their venti caramel macchiato on a rainy Monday morning? Yes, And might look like cheering them on in their parenting win, or telling them how beautiful they look on their date, or wishing them a happy Monday. Stop the comparing because all it does is leave you feeling sorry for yourself. Instead, I challenge you to dig deep and find ways to smile with your friends in their wins. Look for places to scream “Yes that is awesome, And I’m so happy for you!” It might feel awkward, but I promise, you don't have to look far to find someone to celebrate with. Because there is enough joy to go around; there is enough spotlight to share. Root for your people; build those bridges in the good times so you’re not alone in the tough times. Life is better when we’re smiling, and we sure weren’t meant to do this alone.
Yes, life is tough, And it's also extraordinary and amazing when you push past the awkward and work to find the awesome.