“Yes, and…”: An experiment in team work

The first rule of improvisational comedy is say, “Yes, and…” What this means is that every time a person you are improving with creates a scenario (like, “Now we are on a yacht  with a golden retriever puppy”, you accept that scenario (that’s the yes part). Then you add your own contribution (the puppy just jumped in the water and started to swim). You never negate the scenario you’re improv partner presented, you just add on.

Most of the time we are quick to say “but”. “I like your idea, but have you thought about [My brilliant way!].” Those three little letters can quickly make the other person feel defensive or negated.

Today, listen for when you are about to say “but” and try to replace it at least half the time with “and”. Say, “I like your idea, and what if we also included [my additional idea]?”

Notice how the conversation proceeds. What is it like when you go ahead and use “but”? What do you notice about the other person’s response, tone of voice, non-verbal communication and language when you use “and” instead?


1. What are situations in which you have felt most able to create with others? What did you learn? What did you produce?

2. What context and guidelines – explicit or implicit – where there in those groups?

3. Who has made you feel your ideas are truly welcome? How did s/he or he give you that feeling?


Photo Credit: Creative Commons License Erich Ferdinand via Compfight

Spread the word