Improv Games: “Yes, And”

“Yes and” is a simple but incredibly powerful improv game that quickly demonstrated the difference between saying, “yes, and” and “yes, but.” In almost every single one of my keynote presentations and workshops, this is the exercise that gets the best feedback. Give it a try!

Purpose

The purpose of this game is to demonstrate the powerful difference of changing your mind-set from “yes, but” to “yes, and.”

Summary

In this exercise you and a partner will have two conversations. The first will be an example of saying, “yes but,” and the second will be an example of saying “yes and.”

How to Play

You and a partner will have two conversations. The first conversation can start with any first statement, but after that every statement must start with the two words, “yes, but.” For example, let’s say the first person said, “Let’s go to Chinese food.” The next person has to start with “yes, but.” So maybe they say, “Yes, but I had Chinese food last night. I don’t want Chinese food.” The other person also has to start with “yes, but” as well. So they will say, “Yes, but I have a coupon.” And so on and so on. Go for about a minute just having a conversation.

Once you have completed that, repeat the exercise starting with the exact same first sentence. This time, however, begin each sentence with the two words “yes, and.” So for our Chinese food example it would be, “I really want to go out to Chinese food tonight.” “Yes, and while we are there we can stop at the record store next door.” Then the other person goes back, “Yes, and I have a coupon so that we save money and we can spend that money to buy records at the store.” Again go on for about a minute and see where it leads.

Improv Tips and Things to Remember

It is important in this game to not ask questions because after you ask a question the other person has to start with “yes, and” or “yes, but.” “Yes” or “no” questions might be okay but try to stay away from asking questions (it will make your life easier). Stick to making statements as it helps move this game along. Don’t over-think your answers, just say “yes, and” or “yes, but” and just flow with whatever comes immediately afterwards and see where it leads you. That is where the creativity and fun in this game comes from. Try this for a few different topics just to see what happens

Improv Lessons

After you’ve done this exercise, you and your partner and any observers should discuss how “yes, but” differed from “yes, and.” How did “yes, but” feel to play and watch? How did “yes, and” feel to play and watch?

This is a simple and powerful exercise. “Yes, but” will feel like an argument whereas “yes, and” will feel more collaborative. Which one was easier? There is no right answer to this question as some people find “yes, but” easier, while others find “yes, and” easier. People that find “yes, but” easier do so because you do not have to listen to your partner or use your creativity.

Many people stay in an argumentative or set-in-ways mentality to make this easier. It does not mean they are wrong, but this is a starting point from where to develop. This one simple shift, catching yourself from saying “yes, but” and switching it to “yes, and” will probably have a greater impact on your life and career than any other shift you can make. Play this game, practice it to the point to where you catch yourself saying “yes, but” and then think in terms of “yes, and.” You want this to be a natural reaction.

Here’s an example along with some more instruction:

VIDEO

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