When practicing or performing improv, there’s a rule that you must “YES, AND” your teammates. This guiding principle is powerful because it builds a deep sense of trust and creates immediate shared reality between participants.
Imagine you walk into a meeting at work and pitch a new podcast, and your boss says YES, AND we have a budget for this! You feel exhilarated. She loved your idea, boosted your morale and gave financial support. We create movement and world change this way because YES, AND fosters collaboration.
Each YES, AND requires you show up and grow, to keep following the thread of aliveness. However, using YES, AND inside the container of an improv space is not real life, because it ends and everyone is off the hook. But these lessons translate to real life.
With each YES we’re also saying NO to something else. It’s too easy to be a yeah, sure to things that can accidentally put our real, enthusiastic YES in jeopardy. If we want our YES to almost exclusively go to the crème de la crème juicy stuff of our lives, we have to become more and more okay with saying NO.
For example, your friend wants you to join her for a spa day, but your budget has you saving for your trip to Italy. Or you say YES to a coffee date, which means you’re saying NO to spending time developing your side hustle.
The modern world bombards with beautiful, important, distracting invitations. We live in a 24 hour news cycle with many causes that need attention. We’re going to have to choose and get mighty good at discerning, because we’re here for the long haul.
Brene Brown talks about building Trust using this BRAVING acronym.The R stands for Reliability. I really recommend the whole talk, but if you’re short on time at least catch moment 14:49 here. She says we have to be especially aware of our YES and NO when someone comes up to you and says, “God it was so good seeing you, I’ll give you a call and we can have lunch.” If you’re excited to make plans, say YES. Otherwise she suggests, “It was good seeing you, too.” Moment of discomfort. Move on.
This saying NO business can be especially hard for women because society conditions us to say YES to please others, to get ahead, to be seen as reliable. This means we have a tendency take on more. More that doesn’t match our grand plans, more that isn’t aligned with our Internal Compass, more that would actually be a NO upon reevaluation.
You get to reevaluate and reprioritize. You get to hold boundaries out of respect for yourself and others. You get to love and encourage people from afar. You get to save your YES for magic, for resounding joy and delight, for vulnerability, and even pain (because we are humans who feel and glean from the entire spectrum of emotion). You get to give out your NO on the reg. NO is key to your self-care, self-trust and consistency that leads to a deeply fulfilling life.
This saying NO is a practice. Here are some script templates to help you ease in:
I want to hear from you. How do you handle saying NO to prioritize your YES?
To the glory of your NO,