Yes, And…

I have enjoyed following the Improv Everywhere missions since I first heard about them on This American Life a few years back.

What I especially enjoy is their aim of shaking people out of their everyday routines in a way that is enjoyable for everyone (unless someone is set on not enjoying it), and also their long form improvisation guideline of Yes, And.

Accepting an offer is usually accompanied by adding a new offer, often building on the earlier one; this is a process improvisers refer to as “Yes, And…” and is considered the cornerstone of improvisational technique. Every new piece of information added helps the actors to refine their characters and progress the action of the scene.

This is not a bad guideline for life in general.

Life throws something at us, and we can respond with a Yes, And… We say yes to it, and then add our own, advancing the story from a place of Yes, And. The Yes is an invitation to allow it, and even find peace with and appreciation for whatever is happening. And the And is an invitation for us to bring it something else to it, to take it further.

Or we talk with someone, they say something that has a grain of truth in it, which just about anything has, so we can acknowledge that grain of truth, and add another perspective. The Yes is an invitation to find the truth in their perspective, and the And is an invitation for us to bring something new to it.

The Yes is a wholehearted Yes to whatever is happening, an invitation for receptivity and appreciation. The And an invitation to actively add something to it, bring something new to it, advance the story in a way that may be interesting, entertaining, beautiful and touching.

Say I get sick with pneumonia, as happened last week. It is something life gave me, and the Yes comes from saying a wholehearted Yes to whatever is happening. From here, I can add my own twist to it. My And in this case is to use it as an opportunity to fully allow experience, including the pain. It is to investigate my beliefs around being sick. It is to take the opportunity to watch movies, listen to podcasts and read books. It is to take the opportunity to fully relax here now, without going into planning or strategizing about the future.

A No, And is usually not so enjoyable, in long form improv as in life in general. It creates a sense of stuckness. Comes from reactivity. A closed heart and mind.

A Yes, And is far more enjoyable, in long form improv and in life. It comes from receptivity. It invites in genuine appreciation. It opens up possibilities.

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