The Yes-And pinciple and improving your conversations

by phil on Wednesday Jan 28, 2009 2:31 PM
mainfeed, principles

This is a principle I've adhered to for many years. It's a principle from improv that was told to me as the "Yes-And" principle. What you do is that whenever anybody says anything, in your mind you think, "yes, and..." and then say whatever's next. What this does is it keeps the conversation flowing, and climbing to ever-taller heights of creativity. When you say no or contradict what was just said, everybody's minds shut down. For improv this could kill a performance. For ordinary conversations, it can bring the conversation to standstill.

The Yes-And principle is a trick that keeps improv actors coming up with spontaneous creativity, of the kind that often seems either prepared or some from of divine inspiration. But what I've found is that when you adhere to that principle, almost anybody can have innovative, open-ended conversations.

In America, there's another principle about conversations, "never talk politics," which I don't follow at all. With the "Yes-And" principle, the conversation doesn't devolve into a flame-war. When you're always looking for the positive in what people say, even if they're at the opposite end of the spectrum, everybody learns something.

The whole point is to keep the conversation going. You want to be someone who always has something to add to conversations.

This has served me well time-and-time again as a freelance developer. I often feel that many of my clients like working with me simply because I provide a space and soundboard for them to really express themselves and develop their ideas.

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