As you know, I get my inspiration for writing from my everyday experiences. I was fortunate to have an opportunity last week to work with a business coach that is also a British improv performer. It was quite an experience. The exercises we did focused on improving our listening skills with a splash of being more comfortable with taking risks. It was taught by John Cremer from the UK, who is not only an award-winning professional speaker, but continues to do live improv.

After spending an entire morning with John, my fellow participants and I learned a lot about listening and taking risks. My favorite part was the time-honored “yes, and.” The practice of improv performers using “yes, and” requires they accept whatever their improv partners do or say as part of the scene and then build on it with their own contributions. To do this they must be present in the moment, listen very carefully, and contribute freely – all skills which you might agree are pretty useful in our professional and personal lives.

Saying “yes, and” builds communication. It’s open. It’s freeing. Stop for a minute and think of the thoughts in your head when hear a simple “yes.” or “yes, but”. A one-word answer, “yes” isn’t useful to keep dialog going. Saying “yes, and” or just “yes” in general, holds an element of risk so people develop the habit of saying “yes, but.” Not a good practice, no matter how nice your voice inflection is when you say it. A “yes, but,” makes you hold your breath while you wait for the qualifying dialog. The “but” diminishes the “yes” and typically leads to a contentious or somewhat adversarial exchange. The person adding the “but” to their affirmation is generally doing so because they see some risk in saying yes.

While we’re on the topic of risk, imagine taking a group of professionals and asking them to get up and do improv. Sounds impossible, right? People get very fearful, because they are afraid of making mistakes. The good thing is if you do improv in a business coaching situation, there is no such thing as mistakes. Rather you’ll likely find yourself delighted and entertained by “mistakes,” so you might experience how letting go of some conformity and uniformity teaches the value of bringing creativity, laughter and risk-taking into the workplace.

Okay, so now you think I’ve really lost my mind and yes maybe I have because now I have a challenge for you. A simple internet search will yield videos like this one Yes, AND. Give it a watch and then consider trying the game. If you do, I hope you’ll experience what I did!