Conversation Skills: Why Saying “Yes, and…,” Can Be Hard

Saying “Yes, and…” is a developed skill. Turning it into a habit allows you to more readily be in service to others. You are not creating resistance to what you bring to the table. When we are not driving our own agenda nor sitting in judgement of another’s contributions our hearts and minds are open to receive. We build trust in our relationships when we honor other’s contributions, no matter how different from our own.


There are impressive books about improv comedy and how people are using the rules of improv comedy to improve the quality of conversations and interactions with colleagues.

Surprising innovations happen through Interdependent dialog. Click To Tweet

In the book Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration–Lessons from The Second City, by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton, the authors describe the first rule of systematically saying “Yes, and…” in response to other’s ideas.

In turn this opens up the conversation to exploring the thoughts and ideas of your colleagues – where both people are working together for a greater good or cause. However, saying “Yes, and…” is difficult to put into practice, especially if we don’t feel there is cultural trust or if it feels competitive.

Interdependent dialog requires you to trust that others will support and build upon your contribution and it requires you to do the same for them. In business, support is almost always highly conditional.

  • “I will support you as long as I know where this idea is going.”
  • “I will support you as long as success is guaranteed.”
  • “I will support you as long as there’s something in it for me.”

When trust is not present or people are not self-aware they do not like giving up control of the conversation or outcome. And yet it is only when you have a high trust environment or are self-aware that you can be in choice to fully participate. Surprising innovations happen through Interdependent dialog.

Obviously not every idea is a good idea and using “Yes, and…” may require thoughtful reframing. There are times when people have to be told “no.” And yet, too often “no” is the default response to everything. It is offered as a way to avoid risk and possible failure. It results in customer dissatisfaction, employee disengagement, and lack of innovation.

Responding with “Yes, and…” is a useful skill in deepening interpersonal relationships, teamwork, feedback, brainstorming, conflict resolution, sales negotiations and problem solving. In Interdependent dialog we are in service of others.

Saying “Yes, and…” generates energy and engagement in conversations and forward momentum. It gives people confidence to speak up and participate at their best. It’s ok to get messy and even risk failure. It allows individuals and groups to bring their finest selves to a conversation and to get the top ideas into the room.

I have learned that responding “Yes, and…” actually saves you a lot of energy and stress. Instead of having to control the conversation or feeling pressure to have the answers, you simply let the other person talk while you listen and support and generate soultions together.

Inmpov is a skill that can feel hard to learn and put into practice on your own. Leaders who aspire to aquire these skills can do so more quickly by working with a coach, like myself, trained in Strengths Strategy or taking an Improv class. [link], After a time you learn that often the best response is to not say anything, to be fully present and to just listen.

What is your experience with “Yes and…” over these past few weeks? I would love to hear from you. Contact me or let’s connect on LinkedIn.


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