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It Only Takes Changing One Word...


Several years ago I was taking an improv class for the National Speakers Academy, one of the exercises we practiced resonated deeply and has served tremendous value ever since. The “Yes and” approach to conversation.





The class example was a scenario in which you are speaking to many people and their responses are not in alignment with what you envisioned. You are caught off guard or are baffled by their perspective. At this moment you have two choices. Shut them down or become curious to learn more and draw out the conversation.

The former (“Yes, but”) , while tempting, can be disastrous. You may ostracize your audience, offend your colleagues, and risk future opportunities. Basically, you are saying, “yes, that is your opinion but it is not worthy of further discussion or thought, let’s move on to my idea.” Conversely, you can lean into the discomfort, open yourself up, trust the unknown wisdom of others and ask for more. “Yes, and”. Forbes has a great article that articulates this well.


Here is an example: You are presenting an exciting idea to your team, you have thought about this for days, carefully crafted your talk, and feel alive with enthusiasm and positivity. You stand up and bare your soul, outline your genius, standing tall and proud. The colleague next to you cuts your ending short and blurts out “yes, but… what about XYZ?” How does that feel? I would venture to guess deflating, dismissive and undermining. The “but” is a word that puts a stop to your momentum and ideas. It subtly negates your brilliance and moves focus away from your previous thought. It would have been much nicer to hear your colleague say, "Yes, great idea, and I would like to add another thought..."


“Yes, and” is a beautiful phrase that builds trust and connection. It doesn't require you to agree with the other person, it just allows for validation and acknowledgment of perspective. It allows for the conversation to continue and asks for a partnership to further the inquiry.


As a great leader, your goal is not to be “right” but to support others to rise, to stay curious of perspectives. Not to push your agenda or thought but to lead with vision and a willingness to listen with the primary goal of finding insight and greatness for the whole of the team. Remember, it does not take away from you by acknowledging others' opinions, you are no less brilliant or powerful, you are simply allowing another thought to take


My Challenge To You:

  • In order to see the power of one word, you will have to stay focused. Without focus, the “but” will sneak back in! Awareness is the key to success

  • Try the “Yes and”, three times this week. How did the dynamic change? Did the conversation take on a different feel or encourage more thought/ creativity?

  • Be aware of others saying “Yes, but” and observe the subtle changes in the conversation, how does the other respond? Did their effect change? Did their energy fizzle?

  • It is human to err, if you make a mistake and say “Yes, but”, just openly correct yourself, “I'm sorry, I should have said, yes, and…”~ see what happens!

If you enjoyed this article and would like to go deeper, please reply to me for a free 30-minute coaching call.




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