When someone poses an idea, what is your reaction? To accept and add to it, or to knock it down? When we block the ideas of others we stop the flow of ideas. When we accept the ideas of others we keep the ideas flowing and agree to save the evaluation for later. In improv this is called “accepting offers.” It enhances collaboration and problem solving.
A classic improv activity is “But versus And.” The premise is simple: your task is to work together to plan the company holiday party. The improvisers are given the direction to share ideas one at a time. In round 1, each time a new idea is shared the next person follows with the phrase, “Yes, but…” before sharing their idea. In round 2, the improvisers follow the same directions, except the phrase they use to follow the ideas of others is “Yes, and…”
This video demonstrates the difference when Extension educators tried this activity at a workshop. The first group uses “but” and the second group uses “and.” Notice the distinct difference when ideas, no matter how outlandish, are accepted versus rejected. It is likely that the first group will never get around to having a party and the second group is destined to have lots of fun.
How does that translate to our communication? When we accept the ideas of others, and add to them, we keep the conversation moving forward. We consider more possibilities before beginning the task of determining a best course of action. We allow for creative problem solving. We build trust. We strengthen relationships rather than tear them apart.
When the Extension educators followed this activity with additional discussions and brainstorming sessions throughout the workshop, they practiced accepting the ideas of others with “Yes, and…” At first, I prompted them to incorporate this technique. By the end of Day 1, they were doing it spontaneously.
This activity was one of the first of dozens of interactive, engaging activities the educators participated in. The use of improv proved to be a great warm-up that promoted a willingness to have fun, be flexible, and be creative. The educators remarked that they intended to try these techniques with groups they lead and participate in.
On Day 2 of the workshop each educator presented a short segment of a lesson using various techniques they had learned. It was impressive how much this improved their effectiveness. To quote a participant from a follow-up email:
“You did an outstanding job coordinating, hosting, teaching,
facilitating, and the other 50 things you did behind the scenes!
I admit that I was just a little skeptical of this workshop – yes, and,
I learned a great amount of information which started my brain thinking
of ways to connect and engage with my audiences. The workshop was amazing!!
Thank you -- you’re fabulous!!”
Nancy Hudson, Fulton County