The Power of “Yes”
by Ian Doescher
In improv comedy, there’s a game called “Yes, and…” The rules of the game are essentially this: whatever your partner in the scene says, you have to respond with “Yes, and…” before you move on with the rest of your sentence. In other words, you have to agree to what they have added to the scene and find a way to build on it. “Yes, and…” is a game designed to help us resist our natural temptation to deny someone’s idea in place of our own. Instead, actors have to accept what comes, even if it’s not what they had in mind.
On Saturday night, I attended the annual banquet of one of our nonprofit clients, Embrace Oregon. Embrace Oregon is an organization that connects faith communities to the foster care system, supporting DHS staff and kids who are in the foster system in various ways. Among the powerful stories told Saturday night was a story from a foster mom about saying “yes.” She talked about some of the calls she and her husband have received from DHS to come and pick up children in desperate situations. The stories were tragic and powerful, punctuated by the power of the word “Yes.”
With my kids, especially as they get older, I have to fight my natural inclination to say “No.” When they ask about something, I try to stop myself and ask, “Is this something I can do for them? Is this something I might normally say ‘no’ to, for no good reason? Is there any reason not to say ‘yes’ in this moment?” While some of their questions do require a “no,” I find that both they and I are happier when I say “yes” if I can.
Saying “yes,” by definition, opens us up to a new possibilities. It opens a door instead of shutting it (“no”). Saying “yes” can be scary, as anyone who has accepted a marriage proposal or signed a mortgage or taken on new job responsibilities can attest. It’s often much easier to say “no,” to keep things the way they have always been, to reject change or a new, unknown opportunity.
It’s fairly easy to look back through history and imagine how things might have been different if certain historical figures had said “no” instead of “yes.” What if George Washington had refused to be the first president? What if Abraham Lincoln had said “no” to the abolitionist cause? What if Martin Luther King, Jr. had said “no” to the challenge of the Montgomery bus boycott? Yeses are powerful. They move us along. They help us grow.
I don’t know about you, but I find it is often when I am scared of something that I need to say “yes” to it. Fear is not a reason to say “no.” What about you? What was your most challenging “yes”? What will you say “yes” to today?
[Yes artwork by Pivot Senior Designer Rod Sawatsky who, when I asked him to do it, said “yes!”]