In the performing arts, improvisation is a spontaneous way of acting that does not have any specific preparation. Actors enter the stage and create a show without a script, props, or costumes.

What unfolds is typically a great success because each person always responds to what another person says with: “Yes, AND…”

An actor could be in their everyday work attire and decide to say, “I’m Tarzan of the Jungle!” Immediately she knows that her troupe accept and support the idea, “Yes, you are Tarzan of the jungle!”.  Then, someone will add to it, “And I’m Jane, foraging amongst the apes.”

By constantly accepting whatever is contributed onstage with a resounding “Yes”, then adding to it “And…”, others can respond and confidently build on the narration, knowing that whatever they say will be accepted. Before you know it, a successful play arises.


When this concept is applied to life, relationships, and work situations, the results can be amazing, as radical shifts and changes in engagement and enthusiasm occur.

It’s typical human nature for us to assign meaning to the situations we encounter. We don’t gather input at face-value.  Instead, we have pre-conceived and conditioned thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes that have literally been ‘wired’ into our brain map, based on our past life experiences. This means that instead of remaining open-minded and neutral, we filter the current situations.

We do this to better understand the world around us, to keep safe, and to make good decisions. Unfortunately, while it may provide a temporary framework and organization for our life experiences, it limits our genuine interaction with reality as it is.

This means that we may enter situations with a “No, but…” attitude as we prematurely make assumptions, comparisons and judgements on the people, environments, and situations we are in.

In certain brief instances, when we need to make a quick decision, this can be fine.  However, often we get stuck in a mire of limiting perspectives that carry personal judgements, creating a skewed version of reality.


If “Yes, AND…” is such a powerful tool for collaboration and effective communication, why is it often replaced with “BUT…” and what can we do about it?

When we share a new idea or thought with someone, it takes a lot of openness and vulnerability on our part. Thus, when the listener responds with an answer such as, “Yes, I get it!” There is excitement and relief.

However, they may follow up with the response, “But it will never work.” Or maybe they say, “Yes, what a great plan! But we tried it a few years ago and it didn’t’ work.” How do we feel? 

Immediately the energy and excitement flatlines. All we can focus on is what comes after the word BUT. Anything before it gets negated and we feel like their original response was insincere.  In addition, we probably wish we had never shared the idea in the first place.


When we apply “Yes, AND…” to life, other people feel heard and valued. Their ideas and contributions aren’t immediately ‘shot down’.  Instead of creating a barrier or sense of resistance, we create a spirit of connection and collaboration.

By saying “AND”, instead of “BUT” we move from the sidelines, as a spectator, into the game of life. We become part of the success or failure of the project, conversation, or event.  

In other words, we are on board with what is taking place, and that brings a level of energy and involvement that is crucial to the success of personal and professional projects and relationships.


As adults, we are programmed to think critically, to weigh out pros and cons, and to be on the ‘look out’ for what is wrong. This leads us to responding to other people’s input with a limiting perspective.

What if we stay open?

  • Listen to the other person fully
  • Don’t reply with “But,” “Well,” or “I don’t know…”
  • Instead, pause and take a breath
  • Repeat their idea in our head
  • Then nod and say “Yes, AND….”

For example, “Want to go on a hike with me?” To which the adult absorbed in a weekend work project, pauses, takes a breath, repeats the person’s question, and then says, “Yes, AND let’s take the dogs, too.”


What if we don’t actually have time to go for a hike, are we supposed to say “Yes” regardless? 

Excellent question!

Saying “Yes” to everything is not realistic or possible, and it certainly won’t create a life that is authentic.  We need to make good choices and we need boundaries.

The point is, more often than not, we prematurely say “No” to ideas and opportunities without fully considering them. When we do this, we limit our life experiences, relationships with others, and potential growth.

By simply adding “Yes, and…” to more of our conversations, we automatically open ourselves up to a world of opportunity.

So, to build on the example above, it could also look like this: “Want to go on a hike with me?” To which the adult absorbed in a weekend work project, pauses, takes a breath, repeats the person’s question, and then says, “Yes, AND can we arrange to do that tomorrow, as my day is focused on this project.”  How’s that for a win-win response?

How about you give it a shot? I hope your answer is “Yes, and…”

To Your Fit Brain & Fit Life,