How To Practice Yes And & Improv Your Way To Successful Conversations

In order to have successful conversations across cultures or with people that think differently from us, it is important for open dialogue and honest communication to exist. The way to ensure that these two things happen is to learn how to make environments safe. How can you make environments safe you ask? I am going to suggest using and improvisational technique called the yes, and...

This is a protocol that actors and comedians use a lot when they are practicing improv. It allows for anything to happen and it goes like this: No matter what your fellow actors present to you, instead of negating it, belittling it, or disagreeing with it, your job is to accept the scenario as it’s presented to you (regardless of where you wanted it to go) and then you add to it before volley it back. 

“Yes” is the acknowledgement of receipt of information & “And” is the pivot point with which you accept, react to and otherwise build on the idea that has been offered to you. This is not a blind agreement.

Let me illustrate this with an example: there are two people. One loves Cristiano Ronaldo and the other is not a fan.

Person 1 says, I hate Ronaldo. I think he’s too full of himself and he doesn’t care about others

Person 2 says, I love that you value compassion and selflessness, I also value compassion and selflessness. (this is the YES) here are some instances where Ronaldo showed compassion and selflessness. (This is the AND).

The energy of the conversation shifts from aggressive to conversational. Now both parties might not end up convincing the other person but the tone is much less adversarial than it could have been. This is a device for understanding, creating open dialogue, and engaging in thoughtful, respectful disagreements.

What this does is let go of your own ego and cause you to be more open to other perspectives. As a result, you’ll have more possibilities.

Less Ego, More Openness, More Possibilities

In the age of diversity, empathy is an important skill to develop and this is one of the ways to get started with that. Empathy starts with shared values.

I have been thinking about this ever since I interviewed Bob Kulhan, the author of Getting to "Yes And": The Art of Business Improv on the art of improvisation. In this interview, I first tried the yes, and... method with him and thus began my journey of implementing it into my conversations. We recently got together again to discuss how to apply improv to business. Check it out here.  

Having conversations is something most of us do on a daily basis so I hope as we navigate today's world, we learn how to emphasize listening and collaboration in order to avoid premature conclusions. This will allow us to clarify our views and share our opinions in conversational tones as opposed to argumentative.

So next time you find yourself with someone who has a different opinion from you, think about how you can improv your way to open dialogue. 


Tayo Rockson

Tayo Rockson is a storyteller, cultural translator, and brand strategist for change-makers on a mission to use his difference to make a difference.  He is a 4x TEDx speaker, the CEO of UYD Management, and the host of the As Told by Nomads podcast. In addition to that, he's been named a "Top 40 Millennial Influencer" by New Theory magazine. His book Use Your Difference To Make A Difference is based on how to connect and communicate in a cross-cultural world.

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