If you ever take an improv class, one of the first things you will learn is the “yes and” rule. This rule means that you are required to agree with the situation you are presented with and you also must add something to that scenario.
If you are improvising and your partner says, “Quick, let’s get into my spaceship” you can’t say, “That is not a spaceship, that is a chair.” By doing that, you have killed the scene.
Instead, if you reply, “Great, I went to space camp so I know how to operate a spaceship” then you have continued the scene and opened it up to numerous possibilities.
The “yes and” rule should be applied to our everyday lives. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been approached with a new situation and my response was “no thanks” or “I’ll have to think about it.” It may have been something I was interested in or at least intrigued by, but I stopped it in its tracks because I was unwilling to say “yes and”.
Had I agreed to the situation and added something, who knows the possibilities that it would have opened up for me.
The movie Yes Man takes this idea to an extreme. In the move, Jim Carey is required to say yes to every opportunity he is presented with. Throughout the movie, he joins a running photography club, learns a foreign language, and takes flying lessons. With the magic of Hollywood, each new thing he learns comes back to benefit him and the people around him.
If we use “yes and” in our everyday lives, chances are that we may create some awkward situations. Not everything we do will come back to make a major difference in our lives and relationships like it did for Carey. But maybe one out of five will benefit us in a way we can’t imagine. Isn’t that a risk worth taking?