Embracing the ‘Yes and …’ in business and life
“Life is a hell of a lot more fun if you say yes rather than no.”
– Richard Branson
Sometimes we choose our circumstances and other times the circumstances choose us.
How we see and deal with the challenges around us is a very important part of our overall happiness, as well as our ability to generate luck. Quite simply, lucky people are positive, optimistic, and expect good things to happen. They follow through on what they’ve started, guided by the belief that they’re going to succeed. Thankfully, optimism is a learnable quality.
One of the best ways to shift your mindset from pessimism to optimism is by following the example of people you consider to be truly, and admirably, optimistic.
If you do and say what happy people with positive attitudes do and say, you can come to share their optimism – to feel the same way they do, experience what they experience, and get the same results they get.
Optimists have a way of dealing with change that sets them apart from others. First, optimists are very clear about their goals, and they’re confident that they will accomplish them either sooner or later.
They keep their minds focused on what they want and keep looking for different ways to get it. Second, optimists know to look for what’s good or beneficial in any situation. Even when things go wrong or they face difficulties or problems, they’ll find, talk about, and amplify the good rather than the negative.
Positive people aren’t always lucky, but they handle adversity differently than others. The one thing they all do is actively turn their bad luck into good luck. The most important insight that positive people offer is that when things get tough, there are always two options.
We can either fold our tents and go home, or we can keep on going. Positive people keep going. They’re resilient under pressure and very adaptable to whatever comes their way.
Winston Churchill summed it up nicely: “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, and the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” In other words, optimists seek out the valuable lesson in every setback or reversal, asking themselves: “What can I learn from this to take with me on my journey?”
There’s a well-known improv technique called “Yes, and …”
Imagine two performers onstage. Each one needs to be carefully attuned to the words and gestures of the other so that they can take a scene that’s developing in real time to a place of entertainment, learning, or both.
One actor begins with a line or a gesture and the other accepts the premise as true (no matter how absurdly funny) and adds to it, seeing what develops from there.
“Yes” is about being receptive to and affirming the other person’s ideas. “And” is about expanding on the proposed storyline, heightening it, taking it further, being open to seeing where it goes.
Now contrast that technique with the traditional way in which a business or work environment typically functions. Consider how frequently ideas presented by team members are greeted with “no, because” or sometimes “yes, but” when presented to management.
Consider, too, that “yes, but” is simply another form of “no, because” insofar as it eliminates the value of new ideas and innovation before they even have the time to truly be considered.
Applying the “Yes, and …” technique can make us better communicators and can be particularly helpful when it comes to group brainstorming or other moments that require us to share ideas freely.
Work cultures that embrace a “Yes, and …” approach are usually more inventive, solve problems more quickly, and have high levels of engagement. “Yes, and …” is ground zero for creativity and innovation.
In a corporate environment, “Yes, and …” can take effort to put in practice; it requires tremendous trust in working with others and the recognition that trust is always conditional.
When we trust, we relinquish some control. Cultivating a “yes” culture requires company leadership to model receptivity and positivity. In a “yes” culture, leaders of all levels are committed to building on people’s individual contributions and acknowledging their worth.
“Yes, and …” can be utilised in four key scenarios in business:
1, Coaching and feedback. Instead of interrogating, telling, or criticising, those who are effective coaches try to understand, learn, and explore in conversations. They ask probing questions and try to consider new approaches.
2, Brainstorming and ideation. Instead of a culture in which people value their own ideas most or put their effort into being right or best, effective brainstorming relies on creating a safe environment in which people can say what comes into their heads without worrying about being brilliant or best.
3, Problem-solving and conflict resolution. When working towards compromise or win-win solutions, instead of assuming that one person must be right and another wrong, embrace differences of opinion and perspective. Trying to look at the same situation from different points of view encourages understanding, compassion, and co-operation.
4, Overcoming objections. Instead of “Yes, but …,” saying “Yes, and …” to objections is a means of validating what is best in them and sets you up to work together to meet or reduce the needs they address. Practising “Yes, and …” is like practising meditation and mindfulness insofar as both are incremental processes yielding incremental but potentially tremendously valuable gains.
Positivity begins with the recognition that it is possible to train one’s mind to approach every situation with an eye to its good or beneficial – even lucky – outcomes. Unlocking the tremendous value of positivity requires a capacity to recognise and accept incremental change and is the product of constant and rigorous practice.