Monthly Archives: June 2015

Yes And — The Power of Language

Yes And is a technique that is taught in improvisational acting and in communications courses.

In improv, an actor begins supplying some bit of information that helps to create the scene. They may say to another actor “Looks like we’re in for a bad storm.” This is called an offer and the other actor’s job is to accept the offer and support their scene partner. They might say “Yes and I hope that the road doesn’t flood.” The opposite of accepting the offer is blocking, for example, contradicting the offer, which stops the flow of the scene.

Here are a couple of videos that demonstrate this technique:

The Improv Yes-And Rule

The Yes-And Technique

Yes And as a communication technique is meant to raise awareness of when we are dismissive of the ideas of other people. For example, Chris says “We could hire a virtual assistant to handle all the routine work that is using up all of our time.” Lee says “Yes but we’d have to spend time training a VA in how we want things done.”

The “but” in that reply can feel like a rejection of the original idea. Can’t you just hear Chris say “You’re always so negative. How are  we ever going to get out from under if we don’t do anything?”

If Lee said “Yes and we’d have to spend time training a VA in how we want things done.” The conversation might continue in a similar vein. “Yes and we could start the VA in stages to break up the time drain.” Or even “Yes and we’d want to think of a way to minimize the disruption.”

Use the “Yes And” method to acknowledge and accept another’s suggestion and build on it.

The Pause That Refreshes

When Maddie and I have workshop participants take our Collaborability assessment, we frequently ask them which collaboration aspect surprised them. The most frequent answer is Pausing to allow time for reflection.

Pausing is most important when you have an instant and negative reaction to a collaborator’s suggestion.

When I notice that I have a strong negative response toward an idea, it’s a sign to me to slow down and check out what’s really going on. More often than not, I find that my reaction has more to do with me than with the idea itself.

The pause allows you to develop awareness about your own areas of resistance or automatic response.  Once you’ve paused, you can ask yourself “How could this work?” or “How is that idea connected”? If you take the time to consider the merits or opportunities of an idea, it may lead to a solution that will work well.


Positivity and Collaboration

In Barbara Frederickson’s book, Positivity, she talks about her wonderful collaboration with Marcial Losada. Building on Frederickson’s broaden-and-build theory, Losada’s mathematical model determined exact ratio of positive to negative emotions, 3-to-1, that distinguishes those who flourish from those who don’t.

Losada had an ordinary looking boardroom with walls made of one-way mirrors, video cameras, and special computers which they provided to intact business teams. Research assistants coded every single statement made by every single team member during the business meetings they observed. They tracked whether the statements were 1) positive or negative, 2) self-focused or other-focused, and 3) based on asking questions (inquiry) or defending a point of view (advocacy).

Of 60 teams that were studied, 25% met the criteria of high-performing. They achieved high scores on profitability, customer satisfaction ratings and evaluations by superiors, peers and subordinates. 30% scored low on all three business indicators and were floundering. The rest, the majority, had a mixed profile, doing well in some ways and poorly in others.

photo by tbone_sandwich

Losada also quantified a new variability called Connectivity – how much each team member influenced the behavior of the others, how attuned they were to each other.

There were huge positivity ratio differences between the different types of teams: high-performing were at about 6 to 1, mixed-performance at 2 to 1 and low performance were well below 1 to 1. High-performing teams also had higher connectivity and were equal in the balance of inquiry vs. advocacy and outward vs. inward focus. Low-performing teams were low on connectivity and showed almost no outward focus.

So how can you use this data to improve your collaborations? Comment with your ideas and check back to read some practical steps for fostering positivity and collaboration in your teams.