“There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no.’ Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.”
Keith Johnstone Impro
What I love about this quote is the lack of judgment in his words and his sweeping understanding of the psychological complexity of those two powerful words. There are times when we need that safety, so we choose “no” for all the right reasons. What I am interested in right now, however, is how often do we choose the adventure of “yes”?
In improvisation there is a simple game called “yes, and” in which the goal is to affirm whatever is offered and build on that offer (“and”). The game is working when the dialogue takes on a life of its own and the two people playing are simply enjoying the ride, building on every offer that is given them.
What makes this game so difficult is that success means letting go of the control over how the story or the scene evolves. We have to let go of the safety of our conversations and embrace the adventure of a something that we cannot predict. When it works, it is great fun. The success of it is dependent on our willingness to .
If we are honest with ourselves, how often do we recoil from that moment? Someone invites us to a dinner, a play, a workshop, attend a lecture, etc…, and do we choose to say “yes”? And if we say “yes,” how often is it a passive acquiescence? Do we bring ourselves fully to it?
The key in improvisation is to lean into the resistance. This is that panicky feeling we get when we sense that the conversation might be going in a direction that we cannot predict. It is the feeling that we are no longer be in control of the process. The truth is, we never are.
Our willingness to lean into that feeling, let go of our assumptions of where we “need” to end up and just say “yes, and” will dictate how much of an adventure we have and how alive we feel.