The Week of "No"​: How to Harness the Power of "No"​ (and how not to be a j*rk about it...) Part 2 of 4

Welcome! This week, we're celebrating the "Week of 'No'". (Sometimes it's good to be bad.) Throughout the week, we'll explore ways to harness the power of "No" but still create a "Yes, And" environment around you! This week, we start with "Active Acknowledgement".

Active Acknowledgement

As a part of improve it!'s "debrief" of the "Yes, And", "Yes, But", and "No" activity, we often get feedback that it's not logical to say "Yes, And" all the time. Sometimes, the answer to a question is actually and truthfully - "No"! The same thing happens in an improv scene. While you learn to say "Yes, And" to everything your scene partners is bringing to the scene, sometimes it's in your character's best interest (or in your best interest, as an actor) to say "No". And that's okay! We get it. Not everything in life is easy as saying "Yes" to someone, and then adding onto their dream with an "And". Some things aren't always meant to be.

However, we do point out that you can also "Yes, And" someone presenting the idea rather than "Yes, And-ing" the idea. Sometimes, that "Yes, And" to your coworker is just as powerful.

Let me put it in the context of a scene: Let's say I've started an improv scene where my partner comes up to me and says "That's it, Keller. You're gonna die today!" and points an (improv) gun at my head. In this moment, I have a choice. I can extremely "Yes, And" the scene by taking my scene partner's (improv, fake) gun, pointing it at my heart and maniacally laugh "Do it! Do it, Burns! I dare ya!" That would be very literally agreeing to what is happening in the scene, even though it may not be the safest or most logical choice for my character. Or! I could see the (still very fake) gun to my character’s head, and make a different choice as an actor. I may start crying and say, "Come on, Burnsy. You don't wanna do this! I got kids at home, you don't wanna do this, Buddy." Both are valid choices, both help the scene move forward, both technically agree with what my scene partner presented and added onto it.

If I, however, see my scene partner pointing that gun at my head (okay, it's a finger) and say "Sir, you have a call on line one," completely ignoring the first line and the energy of my partner - the scene stops in its tracks. My partner has to scramble to figure out how the scene goes forward, the audience gets confused, and the energy of the scene is gone.

Similarly, if a coworker comes to you and says "I've got a great idea - for our March office retreat, let's have a station where we can flip pies in the CEO's face. That way, everyone can get their frustrations out!" - you've got some options. You can literal "Yes, And" by saying "That's a great idea! Let's pair it with a dunk tank!" which (depending on how cool your CEO is) could work out great! Or! Assuming that a pie station isn't necessarily in the cards for whatever reason (financial constraints, cranky CEO, national pie shortage), you can take your coworker's suggestion and say "Hey, that's a really creative idea! Why don't we come up with a bunch of creative ideas like that to blow off stress, and pitch them to the planning committee. I'm sure they'd like to add some fun to the retreat!" Both examples are actively acknowledging your coworker's ideas and effort, and adding to their energy. While the end result may still be no pie-faced CEO (bummer, dude), you've created an environment where people are heard and valued.

Check back in tomorrow for our next "No" technique: "It's Not 'No', It's Just 'Not Right Now'"...