The power of “yes”

Creative Commons "YES" by Ged Carroll is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Creative Commons “YES” by Ged Carroll is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

In improvisation the rule is always to say “yes, and” to your fellow actor. In other words, take what he/she gives you, however crazy, and build on it.

In our everyday, walking-around lives, there are occasions when we have to say “but” or “no.” We bracket our yesses when a toddler is about to lurch onto a busy street, for example, or when a perpetrator does unspeakable harm to a victim.

But I think that in general, the “yes, and” guideline is a helpful one. It notes an understanding of current circumstances and a willingness to move forward in light of them. It signifies that we can make choices and build relationships that add value to our lives and the lives of others.

Saying “yes” is inclusive. It calls for flexibility. It is hopeful without being naïve. It also forces us to consider how we might become more versatile, dancing in the moment, however messy that moment is.

The “and,” though, is the real key. It is the difference between mere people-pleasing and maintaining a non-anxious presence in the face of challenges. The “and” is a mark of creativity rather than reactivity.

May we focus on the yesses being offered to us in this complicated time, and may we then use our gifts and passions to influence the arc of humankind for the better.

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