Adding YES AND

Yes And…

“Yes, and…”, also referred to as “Yes, and…” thinking is a rule-of-thumb in improvisational comedy that suggests that a participant should accept what another participant has stated (“yes”) and then expand on that line of thinking (“and”). It is also used in business and other organizations as a principle that improves the effectiveness of the brainstorming process, fosters effective communication, and encourages the free sharing of ideas. ~Wikipedia


I knew a blog post on the actual topic of “Yes And” would have to be written. I knew that eventually I’d have to state (what to some is obvious) that “Yes & Plan” has so many meanings for me and that wanting to help add the “YES” and “AND” to our lives all started most likely with Tina Fey’s stellar book “Bossypants“.

Tina Fey explains Yes, And:

 The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.

Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.

As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live?

The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “What did you expect? We’re in hell.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere.

To me YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.

I love Tina Fey. I love her television shows. I love Mean Girls. Her other movies – they’re ok. But the point is – I always loved this style of adding to others ideas and making them bigger and expanding them until they’ve reached a level no one realized they could reach. “Start with Yes and see where it goes”. Awesome.

I’m an event planner. I teach students how to plan events. The first step is learning how to brainstorm. There are actual rules for brainstorming:


It’s a very similar way of working. “YES AND” is the best way to add ideas on top of ideas to make the best event ideas and marketing ideas EVER. Some of my fondest memories of being an undergrad on the student programming board were the times we sat down as a group and brainstormed themes for our big end of year Spring Fling type event and then kept layering on ideas to go with the themes until we came out on the other side with an event that everyone in the room was super jazzed about. YES – super jazzed – that’s what I said.

As an advisor to the student programming board as a new professional – one of my favorite brainstorms led to the “Seven Deadly Sins” Loyolapalooza. We said it was an “awareness program” and we were not “condoning” any dreadful behaviors. Yep. Good things can come from crazy ideas.

So that’s what this blog is about. That’s what I like about event planning and planning in general. I decided to say YES to keeping up a fun paper planner (not just my online Google calendars) and have been enjoying my time with markers and fountain pens and stamps and stickers as a creative outlet ever since.

So think about how you’ll say Yes….And….to something this month.






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