I find I tend to hang out with people that “yes and” a lot — an improv rule I’ll explain in a minute. Improv is not limited to the stage; we all improvise every day (…unless you have a script I don’t know about.)
Since 2002, I’ve been doing improv. I auditioned in college simply because I wanted something new to do. Over the intervening years, improv has become an inextricable part of my life. I joke that it keeps me sane, and maybe it does. I really enjoy it, and the foundational rule of improv is the aforementioned “yes and”.
This rule is what makes improv work and what makes it so fun to watch: absolute agreement and forward momentum. Whatever is offered is accepted and built upon. “I enjoy working for the garbage company.” “Me too! I love the smell of garbage.” “Exactly! It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning!”
I could be on stage with a complete stranger and feel completely comfortable because of this rule. Your goal as an improviser is to make the other person look like a genius. When everyone does that, the foundation for brilliance is there.
It’s so refreshing – how often in life do we experience complete acceptance with forward momentum? How many times each day do we hear “yeah but”, “no” or simply “yes” — agreement with nothing else added?
To me, those that “yes and” in life — whether they know it or not — stand out, because it is often easier to say anything but that. Of course, this is life, and acceptance is not alway appropriate (hence why improv is so fun to watch). But when we can embrace “yes and” in conversation and in action, that’s when magic happens.