"Yes, and...": Lessons On Acceptance From Improv Class

This month I started an Improv class to work on my stage presence and to have a little fun. It has proven to deliver on both, and the life lessons that come with each class are a bonus.

One of the basic principles of Improv comedy is “Yes, and…” It is a practice that encourages free flowing conversation and quite frankly, anything to happen. When fellow actors present to you, your role is to say, “Yes, and…” It’s a rule of acceptance. A rule where you take the scenario that is presented to you without judgment or rejection (or commenting on where you think it should have gone), and then add to it. You accept what has been offered and then respond by giving your partner(s) something they can reply back to - esentially setting them up for success.

n life, we say “no” quite often. We do it to manage our time, stay productive, and as a self-care rule to preserve our sanity & health. I endorse having an awareness around how you give away your time, however, applying the “yes, and…” principle can change relationships, careers, and attitudes.

What if this protocol was used as a tool with health & lifestyle behaviors?

What if we flipped the script so to speak, and used “yes, and…” with the dialogue we have within ourselves?

Let me explain…

When it comes to how we respond to ourselves, saying “no” might come a little too easy. It’s in our nature to shut down our innate desire to do something with a “no”, especially when a “yes” means we have to do a little extra work. Am I right?

You know, that inner voice in the back of your head? The one that has an opinion about everything you choose to do whether you like it or not? It can be judgmental, indecisive or downright self-sabotaging. Sometimes it can persuade you to do things you might be better off avoiding, and other times it can guide you to make smart decisions. The result always comes down to choice.

It is our job to change the conversation, because we have a choice in how we respond. And I’m telling you right now, by changing the way you respond you can use that inner voice in a positive way.

Let’s say you think to yourself, I should go for a run tonight. Your normal response to this thought is to come up with any number of reasons why you can’t or don’t want to do it. Using “yes, and…” will encourage that behavior rather than blow out the idea. The built in enthusiasm makes it almost impossible not to agree. Think about it. If you respond to that idea with, “yes, and the run will totally help me relieve the stress from this day”, you are solidifying the fact that a run is a great idea.

Here’s another. Let’s say you are out entertaining clients and they choose a posh Italian joint for dinner. You want to put your face in a bowl of spaghetti and wash it down with a martini, yet you know that the spaghetti might not be the best choice (for a number of reasons). So you tell yourself you need to order the grilled salmon with a vegetable. The “yes, and…” response will allow you to come up with reasons why this is such a much better choice. (Notice I didn’t see a reason to change the martini order? Just say’in.)

I know, you’re thinking “but Kelly, what if that inner voice has it out for me and suggests something negative?  How does “yes, and…” help that?” This negative voice happens all too often when one is working on health & lifestyle shifts, and I’m going to tell you that this tool is great for shutting that down.

Let’s say you had a fun weekend and overindulged so much that your pants feel a little extra snug and you find yourself saying a lot of negative things. Rather then let that dialogue continue for let’s say - the rest of the damn day – put an end to it with, “Yes, and…”

Here’s how it would go...

Negative dialogue: Oh my gosh, I feel so fat today after drinking 5 gallons of tequila and eating waaaaayy to much peanut butter. I’m such a pig. I shouldn’t eat for a week!

(Ummm…no, not a good solution and by the way negative self talk does not inspire positive body image, self-respect or confidence.)

Response (using “yes, and…”): Yes, and instead of dwelling on it let’s acknowledge that it was one hell of a weekend (worth the memories) and today is a new day to make some good decisions and get back on track.

Piece. Of. Cake. 

I could go on for days doing this scenario stuff, but you get where I’m going with it. Like I mentioned earlier, there are some great things that can come from this practice.

Here are a few:

It allows you to drop the judgment + gain trust. Many times my clients come to me with terrible trust issues (with themselves) when it comes to creating positive changes/habits. The reason? They have spent years making poor decisions and can’t believe they could ever turn that around. With this practice, you can begin to repair that damage with enthusiasm and a new perspective.

It creates awareness around how you respond to yourself. If you start to put this into practice, I guarantee you will be shocked by how often you say “no” to yourself. Or further, how negative the self-talk throughout the day can be. I want to challenge you to keep a running tally of the dialogue you have with yourself for one day. Then, on the following day practice “yes, and…” and watch how that number changes. This will create awareness around your natural reaction and allow you to begin to change that behavior.

You begin to see that every moment is an opportunity to choose. When it comes to changing habits and mindset, there isn’t a moment throughout the day that doesn’t require a decision. As mentioned in the point above, each one of those decisions, great or small, will add up. So why not set yourself up for success by making a conscious decision to choose to accept the scenario and work with it rather than try to fight it.

Now, go practice! Start by keeping a tally of how many negative things you say to yourself and once you’ve established where you’re at – get to work.

By practicing “yes, and…” with yourself, you will reap the same benefits you would if you used this in relationships or Improv! Think: healthier, happier, more positive, more confident. Less ego and more acceptance (of yourself).

The next Lake Las Vegas Refresh Retreat is coming up this October 6-8th. If you KNOW you need some extra time to prioritize your health in a beautiful setting with like-minded people, this is for you. Details can be found on the site under Retreat or at the link below.