It is interesting that we can point to others
as being intransigent in their thinking while we pat ourselves on the back
as possessing true critical thinking skills.
Collective monologues and confirmation bias will derail any potential for a meaningful conversation. When we bring our rigid/inflexible preconceived ideas and/or a predilection to hear ourselves speak, we disrespect the person in front of us and doom any hope for collaboration.
This week I took part in an exercise that underscored the importance of civility and dialogue.
I am participating (as a student) in an eight week improv workshop. Within the first few minutes of the first night, I learned that the foundational cornerstone for effective improvisation can be captured by two words: “Yes, and….” As our instructor explained, “Yes, and” will not only inspire my partner(s), it helps to move a scene forward.
“Yes, but…” and “No!” are scene killers. It stops the action. To prove the point, we played out three improv scenes. As I participated in each, I thought how these scenes play out beyond improv in the “real world” of the workplace and in relationships. Think of the times you have been in a scene-killing or scene-advancing situation.
- Scene #1 = “NO!” No matter what my partner said, my job was to kill the idea. Grind it into the ground with no hope of resurrection. I would then offer my suggestion—to which my partner put a quick stake through its heart. Result? We got nowhere. We degraded one another’s ideas. We did not listen. Each of us only wanted our way. No progress.
- Beyond improv. Ever been in a situation (work or personal life) where your ideas were met with pure negativity? When no one listened or heard the positives of what you presented? Can you remember times when you did the same to others? Without a doubt, this IS a scene killer. It denigrates without a positive alternative. The toxicity simply states, “I’ve stopped listening.”
- Scene #2 = “Well, I don’t know….if we have to….” The good news in this scene: We did not kill each other’s ideas. The not-so good news: We had very little enthusiasm for what the other person said. If not outright negative, we tended to be sarcastic and condescending. While the scene did not die, the best we can say is that it limped along to a merciful end. Minimal progress.
- Beyond improv. Imagine a date in which every suggestion you offer (the restaurant, the movie, and the time) is meet with, at best, considered indifference. Yuck! This thinly veiled negativity will place a wet blanket on any evening. The same for the staff meeting. You know the people (you can see them in your mind’s eye right now). If not downright negative, they never show any encouragement or enthusiastic support for any idea.
- Scene #3 = “Yes, and…!” You could feel the energy noticeably increase in the workshop when we shifted into this scene. No matter what our partners presented, we responded with an enthusiastic “YES!” that was then followed by “AND” this is why your idea has merit! Even if the other person was not totally sold on the idea, she would acknowledge it, embrace it, and offer how it could lead to an even better situation. Very positive—and the scene kept building. While we didn’t really know where the scene would go, we did know we would arrive together!
- Beyond improv. True collaboration allows for brainstorming and question-storming. It is not code for blindly accepting every idea tossed before you. On the contrary, it acknowledges the other person—and then offers a “what if we also did….?” or “and that could allow us to ….” It is not a scene killer. It moves the scene to the next level. Respectful, civil, and considered.
Yes, this strategy can be very difficult in a situation in which you have a deep objection. It is interesting, though, that we can point to others as being intransigent in their thinking while we pat ourselves on the back as possessing true critical thinking skills. As we move into the very long presidential campaign season, listen to the “debates.” (Does anyone really think any of these so-called debates are little more than collective monologues?) Listen to your colleagues, partner and yourself this coming week.
Video Recommendation for the Week:
Just think how much we might get accomplished if we focused on “Yes, and….!”
Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.
I am venturing into the realm of podcasting. Check out my first episode at “Powerful (Mindful) Preparation. Powerful Presentation.” Information on future podcasts can be found on my podcast page.
(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.