Playing with Others – Try this # 7

Being and Stage Fear

I don’t know why people are so surprised by my live performances. My approach is so simple; every song I sing, every story I tell , every move I make, must move the audience to laughter, tears or inspiration. Otherwise, why should I do it?
– John Davidson

How many times have you heard people say; I could never do that – I could never get up in front of people – I have severe stage fright? Or how many people approach speaking in public to ask a question at a meeting or to give a presentation with dread, fear and loathing?

It is clear how these fears limit our lives. They deprive us expressing ourselves in any group of people be it a PTA meeting, a classroom, or seminar. What is the fright all about in stage fright? What are we really afraid of?

Basically, we are afraid that we might fail and be ridiculed and embarrassed. It is as simple as that. Most likely, it is because we have, at some time in our past, experienced embarrassment when expressing ourselves in a group of people. So, we have learned not to repeat the experience by avoiding it. Is there a way to unlearn the negative feeling of embarrassment? Yes of course, and as you may have guessed from the bold heading above, it is by understanding the relationship of being and stage fear.

We began our entrance into being through playing with image and, in so doing, we moved out of the irrelevant emotional baggage of our recent past to find ourselves in touch with our playful self. That same emotional baggage of our past is the very luggage or large trunk keeping us from speaking up in a group of people.

The trunk is full of unconscious memories, of third or fourth grade reading, or being made fun of and ridiculed at some past instances in our life, and this past fear has made us self conscious in the present. Now, every time we are up in a situation where the possibility of speaking before a group arises, we bring out the bag of memories filled with our past memories.

We are self-conscious. We are focused on ourselves. We are remembering the bad from our past when we were faced with a similar situation. The key to unlearning this behavior lies in understanding and working out the differences between: self-conscious, playful, and being.

Self Conscious vs. Playful

Self-conscious is when we hold the thoughts of fear of failure from our past. Playful is when we do the actions which move us out of the fear of failure. Being is the result of shifting from self-consciousness into our playful self or throwing away the bag of fear.</block quote>

This shift is not some mystical, out-of-reach goal. It is really quite simple. In fact, you are already practiced and experienced in this transition from your work in sharing an image, and being and listening. All you need to do is apply the same approach to the new problem; your fear of speaking in public. You are merely applying what you have done to a new situation or raising the stakes.

When we raise the stakes by approaching a new skill, we tend to regress away from the playful or the intuitive by judging, thinking, and conceptualization. This regression is so engrained that we may not even be aware of it. This knee-jerk reaction is our way of protecting ourselves. We want to be in control. This nearly unconscious reaction is understandable. Our past experience of pain and discomfort was the worst kind of unpleasant and it is only natural for us to avoid another similar experience.

Holding on to personal control in face of the new, untested, and unknown – like speaking in front of a group, is our learned way of protecting ourselves – from what?

The Trap of Control

A habit has been formed to shield us from humiliation, embarrassment, and failure. Yet, this pull back into conceptualization or analysis, judgment, evaluation – AJE, prevents us from moving into the intuitive and playful place, which we have demonstrated, IS the path to real safety. Do you see the ironic whirlwind in which we are trapped? We move into the control mode through conceptualization while we know this AJE is the very force that is keeping us from succeeding.

Getting to the intuitive and playful is familiar now, through sharing an image and being and listening. You have found freedom from the AJE clog in the spigot. Now you only need to follow the same paths to the playful and out of AJE, in this case -conceptualization of our fears of humiliation, embarrassment, and failure.

So how do we get past the knee jerk reaction for control to get to the playful and intuitive? We can follow a sensory path instead of a conceptual one. We can experience the moment through the senses; taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell instead of conceptualizing and thus replaying the painful thoughts of the past.

Here are two examples that clarify the difference between a conceptual approach and a playing with image approach as we stand before a group to speak:

Example of conceptualization in speaking before an audience.

You are standing in front of group prepared to speak, and if you follow a conceptual path you will be thinking thoughts: here I am – everyone is looking at me – that man is coughing.

You are thinking about your self as you stand up before the group. You are self-conscious.

Example of “sharing an image” in speaking before an audience.

Now, you are standing up, and you follow a playful path.

Let’s just use the same one as we did in sharing an image; you are experiencing an important image of your life: you see yourself receiving your diploma – making a snow man with your father.

You are bringing yourself into the situation. You are being playful.

Have you heard of the cliché advice for what to do when you get up in front of an audience to speak? Just pretend that everyone in the audience is naked. This advice is really accomplishing the same thing as sharing an image. It is taking you off the path of conceptual and self consciousness, and bringing you on to the sensory path of playful.

Through your actions and by your intention you are moving into the sharing an image place – a place where you cannot think – a place where you can only BE.

Action You Can Take

I just read a bit of advice in a book about public speaking; one should not be nervous but poised. That was it. The author went on to describe what being poised looked like and the effect it had on the listener, but I could not find a single word describing how one was to become poised. Even though I understand what the word poised means, I cannot just suddenly decide – Oh, I am going to be poised now. If the transition were that simple we could decide any number of states: I will be loving now – I will be patient now – I will be happy now.

The paths – sharing an image and listening and being – are the actions you can take. You are practicing things you CAN DO to become not only poised but all of its synonyms; assured, confident, self-possessed, calm, serene, tranquil, dignified, elegant, and graceful.

To overcome your fear of speaking in front of a group, you can continue to practice sharing an image and listening and being, to strengthen your ability to move into the playful. Then you can apply the practices to your fear of speaking in public.

Experiment # 7

Sharing an image when speaking in public

The next time you want to ask a question at a meeting, or make a presentation before a group, bring the skills you have practiced with you.

Before you get up to speak, focus on sharing an image and listening and being.

As you are able to move out of the conceptual and into the playful through the use of these paths, your fears of expressing yourself in a group or before audience will begin to evaporate.

You will BE poised.

Remember the story of Ann at the beginning of this book? She came into her first audition a nervous wreck before practicing the skills that allowed her to create the transformation into a strong, confident woman.

In doing this work, I have seen so many people who were stage frightened; tentative, nervous, or shy in the workshops, become transformed. Once they enabled themselves to find a release from their conceptual, AJE opinions, they were noticeably more self-assured, humorous, and comfortable in their own skin.

Meet Your Playful Self

Improvisation is…

Improvisation IS….


The word “improvisation” presents many meanings depending on your own connection to it. Was it seeing some group in high school or college performing games? Was it seeing “Whose Line is it Anyway?” on television?

The word and style of improvisation has changed, altered, peeked, and plunged over the past thirty years. I have come to call the act of improvisation – Meeting Your Playful Self.

This video helps define improvisation as a powerful act of play.


_¸,.»=椺²° Meet Your Playful Self –

Playing with Others – Try this # 6

Listening – the Greatest Gift We Can Offer

If we agree that listening is the greatest gift we can offer to another human being, then surely it is the center of all of the games, exercises, and approaches to meet our playful selves. Most often, when we listen to family, friends, and co-workers our thoughts are full of analysis, judgment, and evaluation. We are only experiencing the full meaning of the words as our own restrictions, caused by our evaluation, will allow. We are not fully open to accepting the words being offered as we have closed off a section of our minds and filled it with consideration of a response. When we do respond, we are doing so without having heard the full message.

Does this explain a few things about all the misunderstandings, mistakes, and misadventures in your life? Even though we agree that communication is of the highest value in our relationships, and that listening is integral to effective communication we have little awareness of how well we listen. Listening is what grasps the information necessary in accomplishing any task, yet here we are running around in our lives hearing only portions of what is being said, and expecting that what we are saying is being heard.

How much of the important information we are offered might be leaking out like water through a sieve? Is it any great wonder why we feel so frustrated in our relationships if a great portion of what is being communicated never reaches us?

Hearing without listening is similar to building without following the blue prints. It is like proceeding to assemble a put-together piece of furniture like a bookcase, or computer desk without reading the directions. We end up with all those extra parts. Just as we are about to tighten the last screw, we cannot get the shelf in because of something we missed in step one.

Do you find it a little scary that our relationships, jobs, and lives are being run in this same manner? We are not hearing the information we need to assemble our lives, and expecting to fit things together without leaving any extra parts, or we are listening intently to a friend on our cell phone while moving down the road at 60 miles and hour.

Being and listening allows us to measure and direct our listening so we hear what we need to hear when we need to hear it.


One of the best examples of a breakdown in communication when being and listening is absent is on cable television, when two pundits of opposing parties, associations, or views are discussing an issue. Each person is so filled with espousing a view and making their point, until all space for listening has been squelched completely.

What happens? The participants talk over each other as emotions reach a higher and higher pitch until they seem likely to short out the microphone with vocal spit – and what do we have? We have Conflict, in all of its predictable glory. What is more apparent, is how the participants squabble on with very little self-awareness of how ineffectual they are. They seem to go on as though they can assemble the bookcase, construct a conclusion, or reach a consensus. Why is this?

Once we have lost the perspective of being and listening and lost the value of what another person is saying, we have lost our ability to see ourselves as others see us. We are denying that the voice we recorded on the machine is ours. We think we are presenting an effective point of view, when in reality we might just as well be howling at the moon.

Let me be honest. I do this. You do this. We all do this. When we fail at being and listening, as in the TV interview situation, we do little more than vibrate vocal cords. The point of making an example of the TV interview pundits, is to encourage ourselves to listen with being. What can we do to listen with being in our lives so as not to become argumentative TV pundits with our friends, family, and associates?

The good news is – you may have already come in contact with being and listening when you worked on yes…and… as described previously:

Next time you are conversing with a friend or co-worker, try to keep yes in your mind as you listen. You will find that you are moved into agreement with what you are hearing. Try to follow up by responding with agreement. You may discover how the doors of listening close when we fill our heads with thoughts of what-will-I-say-next and judgments. Try just holding yes as you listen and see how a new door opens as you listen in agreement.

Analysis, Judgment, Evaluation – AJE

Let’s focus on the above direction you practiced earlier as it pertains to being and listening. We will focus on the statement: You may discover how the doors of listening close when we fill our heads with thoughts of what-will-I-say-next and judgments.

Why are we approaching being and listening when we hold yes in our minds? What are we filtering out with the yes that is held there? – Analysis, Judgment, Evaluation. Let’s call it AJE. Let’s call the blockage in the flow the AJE clog in the spigot of communication

You learn how to slow and stop the AJE clog in the spigot by practicing holding yes in your mind and thoughts when you hear another person speaking. You are not just holding the word yes in your mind but you are holding the energy of acceptance. As you push toward acceptance of what another person is saying, the AJE slows and more of your consciousness is experiencing the communication of the other person.

It may seem as though you are leaving your self defenseless when stopping the AJE spigot. Holding yes will not leave you vulnerable and weakened at the opinions of others, but stronger for having heard the full depth of what is said. Once you have truly heard another person you will find a greater trust, on their part, to whatever response you may have after being and listening to them.

Experiment # 6

Being and Listening

Experiment with holding yes in your mind as you listen to another person.

You will find yourself watching yourself as you listen.

As you are holding yes in mind the AJE will try to creep in, so you will develop an awareness of the struggle to listening with being.

You can play with being and listening just about anywhere and anytime with anyone who you are communicating with, and as you practice you will find it progressively easier to slow the AJE spigot. As you begin to develop the skill of being and listening you will also reap the reward of communicating with your playful self. Conversations and discussions will lose some of the heaviness and defensiveness and become more light and playful.

You may want to check out how being and listening might be approached within a group workshop. The video below was recorded at the Community TV studeo in Trempeauleau County Wisconsin with the students of Independence High School.  It demonstrates “The Counting Game” as an exercise to point up the value of listening and is one of the examples offered in the last half of the book “Meet Your Playful Self” – The Meet Your Playful Self Workshop.

Meet Your Playful Self

A Dinner for One

A Dinner for One

Was presented on Saturday – March 21 1908 at the Fortney Caberet
in the basement of the Hotel Fortney
Main Steet – Viroqua
The original Dinner for One, also known as The 90th Birthday, or by its corresponding German title, Der 90 Geburtstag , is a comedy sketch written by British author Lauri Wylie for the theatre in the 1920s.
German television station Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) recorded a performance of the piece in 1963, in its original English language. This short comical play subsequently went on to become the most frequently repeated TV program ever (according to the Guinness Book of Records, 1988-1995 eds.; later editions no longer have the category).
The 18 minute black-and-white 1963 TV recording featuring British comedians Freddie Frinton and May Warden has become an integral component of the New Year’s Eve schedule of several German
television stations and Danish national television.

•.¸¸.•´¯`• •.¸¸.•´¯`•

The version of Dinner for One below was performed at the Fortney Hotel in Viroqua, Wisconsin with a cheap, hand held camera and one take.  It featured Beatrice Small as Ms. Sophie and Dennis Kern as James. It was recorded at the Drifteless Cafe. Dennis’ tuxedo was provided by Bonnie’s Bridal and the camera was in the hands of Eugene Soroko.

Part 2

_¸,.»=椺²° Meet Your Playful Self

Play with Others – Try This # 5

An excerpt from the book “Meet Your Playful Self” – Personal Experiments – Playing with Others

Experiment # 4

Playing with an image

Once you are comfortable, close your eyes and simply think of a moment in your life that was important to you. It can be joyous and happy; like a graduation from high school, or sad; like discovering you did not make the basketball team, or dangerous; like the time you nearly drove off the bridge. It does not make any difference so long as it is one of those important moments from your past that crops up easily.

Next, you see just one picture of that moment like a snap shot.

Just close your eyes and relax with that snap shot image. Do not try to find it and think: there it is I am done.

Relax and move into the image by focusing on the details and the details within and around the details.

Once you have the snap-shot image firmly in your mind, open your eyes and hold the image before you. Even though your eyes are now seeing the walls and pictures of the physical room, hold the image in your mind.

As you are holding the image, allow it to play through the memory.

Whatever image you have chosen will want to move and develop through the whole action. Just let it move through and watch it as though it is a movie.

Move through the experience as though you are sharing it with another. Hold it as long as you can.

Here is a video of the students of Independence High School in Wisconsin working with “being” in a workshop. View all of the workshop segments at The Virtual Workshop Page

Bridging Your Image

The difference in the directions for being and relaxation practices, such as meditation and self hypnosis, is that in playing with image the resulting relaxation is not an end in itself. The calm that comes with playing with image is not the end point, but just the opposite. It is the beginning or starting point to becoming playful by bridging your image.

If you can only feel relaxed and playful in your bath tub alone…what good is that? Once you have created and are holding an image, is when the fun begins. Now you begin bridging the image into the next moment. You open your eyes and hang on to the image, bringing it back into the conceptual world, even as you see the room around you. In projecting the image from the within out into the world, you began to build the bridge between boredom and being. As you open your eyes, the room has not changed, the faucet is still dripping, the walls are the same color, but you have changed. You are not experiencing the room in the same way you did before. That is the bridge!

As you practice and cross back and forth over the bridge you will be able to do so with greater ease. You will not need to sit in your tub in the bathroom, you will be able to make the crossing at work, driving to the store, or raking leaves.

Learning to play with image and then bringing it back out into the conceptual world is the core of improvisation and meeting your playful self. The act of bridging boredom into being and then – being into playful – is the very dynamic that energizes improvisation into a performance that delights audiences. These skills are absolutely necessary for improvisation to work, and they are skills you can learn to bring into your life. This is powerful stuff that can lead you to a whole new awareness or release as realized by Ann earlier in the book.

Playing With Others

As you make the move in and out of playing with image you are learning to be playful and discovering skills to play with others. Do you remember a category on a report card; plays well with others? This is a good thing!

How can we play with others unless we are present to play? If your conscious mind is full of the emotional residue of the conflicts of the day, you cannot be present as a player. You will merely be walking around presenting the anxiety of your day. You are carrying all the stuff from your recent past, be it an argument with your mate, a car that won’t start, a sprained ankle. How playful is that?

So, playing with image moves you out of the irrelevant emotional baggage of your recent past and puts you back in touch with your playful self.

Playing with image can seem tedious and unreachable in your first attempts. Remember you are learning a new and foreign skill. Just as you would approach learning to dance, ski, or golf, you can practice this exercise until it has become a skill you can accomplish with ease in just a few moments.

How might your life be different if, when you feel overwhelmed and out of control with family and friends, you could turn to a simple skill to connect you with your lighter playful self?

The ends will justify the means.

The Arrival of BEING and Playing With Image

Playing with image is as simple as it is profound. This realization, which seems obvious in retrospect, did not become obvious to me until some years of work and observation of players and performances. In the course of experimentation, I finally was able to explain being in a way that others could duplicate the experience. The result was an exponential leap in the quality of work of the players since it kept them in the intuitive tract with much greater consistency.

Playing with image continues to prove a valuable skill in acquainting people with their playful self, even more effective than yes…and… It is a skill or practice that remained out of my reach for many years. In the earlier years of working with improvisers, and experimenting with various forms of yes…and… , we discovered inconsistencies; something seemed to be missing in the process. Yes…and…was often hit or miss as a tool for bringing players into the intuitive, playful moment. What was missing? Why did yes…and…seem to go playful at some times and fall flat at others?

In hours of observation with this question circling and darting in my head, the answer finally became clearer; it is because players can do yes…and…while staying locked in their heads trapped on the conceptual plane. Even when done well, yes…and…could fall flat when it rode on a purely conceptual level. The question became; what was the root cause of this inconsistency? Then it became clearer. The exercise led to a playful place – ONLY when the emotional life of the players was carried with the interaction.

In workshops we began practicing yes…and…in ways that would strengthen the emotional underpinning. We began by raising the stakes within the scenes we evolved, and called it as: going for the meat! We focused on making emotionally charged comments directly about our partner: You look like you are about to cry – rather than – That is a new shirt. We discovered as we would go for the meat in our observation statements the scenes and conversations would tend to move into a more playful place.

So it became clear that yes…and…would lead to playful place when the emotional underpinnings were raised, but even then, the scene could easily shift back to a flat conceptual place. What were we missing? How could we locate and focus on the emotional engine that allowed yes…and…to move into playful? Was there another way to get to the important emotional underpinning of yes…and…?

The answer was: Shut up, to put it bluntly – or to be quiet – to be silent.

The answer: If talking was influencing our track into a playful place, what would happen if we discarded words completely? What would be left? ————sharing an image to arrive at being.

The awareness of being through the simple directions above is the hub, center, and foundation to which all of the other exercises are connected and built. Earlier in this book we talked about what is left when the script, props, costumes are all stripped away and I quoted the words of two great teachers Viola Spolin and Sanford Meisner and the specific words they used to point to intuitive awareness; Inner impulse and responding in immediacy.

How do we begin to locate our inner impulse and how to respond in immediacy? Just follow the directions for playing with image above. It is through that process you will experience inner impulse, responding in immediacy, and being your playful self. I do not mean to suggest that the work and direction of the great teachers should be dismissed or ignored, but that the playing with image exercise offers a simple, practical path for discovery of the basis of their teachings.

Meet Your Playful Self

Play with Others – Try This #4

An excerpt from the book “Meet Your Playful Self” – Personal Experiments – Playing with Others

Experiment # 4

Being as in human…The intention of being

Our doubts are traitors
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt

– William Shakespeare “Measure for Measure”

You have experienced an important facet of yourself as you experimented with yes…and … in the exercises above. When listening, we are continually influenced by habitual judgments that we are not even aware of. You’ve discovered that when you move through your life without watching you lose the possibility to make a choice.

In the opening of this book we talked about how the dictionary definition of improvisation seemed to leave out an important aspect of meeting your playful self. The dictionary suggests that improvisation arises when we are forced to make it up due to circumstances well beyond our control; when the bride catches her dress on a nail. We cannot be intuitive by merely making the decision: “Ok, I want to be intuitive now”, but neither do we need to wait for fate to cause the unexpected, like getting our clothes caught on a nail and leaving us in our underwear. We can decide to be watchful and open up the possibility of choice.

As you experimented with taking the action of using yes…and…, you discovered you can choose to do things that will lead to an intuitive and more fun and playful place.

By intention, you are playing games, learning exercises, and putting yourself in situations that set you up or trick and tickle you into the leap into playfulness. Even though, you may not experience an intuitive leap in every exercise, you are making the decision or expressing the willingness to do something extraordinary; to take a personal risk which is likely to lead you to a playful place. You did something new and important choosing to do a specific action, even though it may have felt uncomfortable, with the goal of arriving at a playful awareness.

The next intention we will encounter is even more subtle and powerful ; the intention of being.

Being – silent

The very thought of being silent can be a cause for anxiety. Now, why is that? Why do we feel we must fill every waking moment with conversation, tasks, or assertive action? Why might we tend to equate silence with restlessness and boredom?

You are not alone in this reaction. The students in Sanford Meisner’s class felt that same way and he addressed the boredom and restlessness he saw in their faces in the quote:

“Look, I’ll tell you why the repetition exercise, in essence, is not boring: it plays on the source of all organic creativity, which is the inner impulses.”

Within this quote is that powerful droopy word, from which our anxiety springs in a moment of silence: boring.

I remember suggesting ideas of things to do with a group of my son’s friends when he was in middle school; We could build a snow man”, or :”We could make chalk drawings on the side walk”. I was met with their chant in unison; “Booooring.” I could relate to the same frustration expressed by Meisner as he tried to ignite his students to move into the intuitive when he says: “I wish I could make that clear!”

What is the bridge between boredom and being? If you experience inactivity or silence as boring as did the students in Meisner’s acting class, what can we do? You already know that you can trick yourself into a playful place by experimenting with intention of yes…and…. why not trick yourself out of restlessness and boredom with the intention of “being” by applying it as a playful trick or tickle that will move you into silence with an intention. You might just find yourself in a quiet place that is not boring, but is peaceful and comfortable.

Playing with an image

The first thing to do as you practice being silent is to get relaxed and comfortable in a relatively quiet place. I say relatively because those places seem fewer and farther between in our lives. When all else fails, a hot bath tub, with the door closed will do just fine.

Experiment # 4

Playing with an image

Once you are comfortable, close your eyes and simply think of a moment in your life that was important to you. It can be joyous and happy; like a graduation from high school, or sad; like discovering you did not make the basketball team, or dangerous; like the time you nearly drove off the bridge. It does not make any difference so long as it is one of those important moments from your past that crops up easily.

Next, you see just one picture of that moment like a snap shot.

Just close your eyes and relax with that snap shot image. Do not try to find it and think: there it is I am done.

Relax and move into the image by focusing on the details and the details within and around the details.

Once you have the snap-shot image firmly in your mind, open your eyes and hold the image before you. Even though your eyes are now seeing the walls and pictures of the physical room, hold the image in your mind.

As you are holding the image, allow it to play through the memory.

Whatever image you have chosen will want to move and develop through the whole action. Just let it move through and watch it as though it is a movie.

Move through the experience as though you are sharing it with another. Hold it as long as you can.

Congratulations! You just experienced being silent without boredom. What did you notice about the passage of time as you were experiencing silence?

Meet Your Playful Self

Play with Others – Try This #3

An excerpt from the book “Meet Your Playful Self” – Personal Experiments – Playing with Others

Experiment # 3


Television and radio are the home of every sort and style of interview show. We are constantly being introduced to the stories of people in entertainment, sports, politics, and science. The next time you listen or watch any broadcast in the interview format, watch to see if the rules of yes…and…are being practiced.

Experiment # 3 Yes..and… in an Interview

When an interviewer asks a question watch and listen to the answer given. Even if the interviewee does not actually say yes, is it implied as they answer the question?

As the interview moves along, observe how the dialogue holds your interest. Do you find that interviews moving along the paths of yes…and… hold your interest more strongly than those that do not?

Most often, interviews with an actor or a comedian on a late night TV show tend to be more interesting than those with people outside the entertainment field. Comedians, actors, and performers in the biz know about yes…and…either because they have experienced it in training or have come to learn its workings through practice.

Now that you are armed with the knowledge of yes…and….you can observe how a question by Jay Leno or Conan is met. If they say…”The new film you are working on is being shot in the Rocky Mountains?” and the question is met with an answer, “Well, not much of it really”. , the interview falls flat. If the same question is met with, “Yes I was riding a donkey along a pass last week and it nearly bucked me into a gorge”.

This little yes…and…game goes on before us all the time and now you can enjoy watching how conversations evolve as it is followed or ignored.

Experiment # 3

Watching the Interview

The next time you tune in to an interview on any subject….just watch.

Overall, you will find that the interest level projected by the interview seems directly proportional to the way the dialogue follows the path of yes…and… Possibility.

The more you bring the awareness of yes…and… into your day-to-day communication the more playful you are apt to find yourself. You may find the little yes…and… voice hovering over you like a whispering elf as did one of my students recently:

One evening after a workshop session where we focused on yes…and…for about an hour, the six members sat around and began to talk about the changes they had noticed in their relationships as a result of their practiced awareness of yes…and….

Bob is a talk radio DJ, who remarked how he was aware of yes…and….when he was doing on-the-air interviews for his show. Now I am always thinking of – yes…and – when I am taking calls. If I tend to negate someone, a little bell goes off in my head and I change my question or response.

Dawn, who works in customer service for a major cell phone company, said that her life had changed. Now that I am aware of yes…and…, I watch myself as I am talking to customers, and I am able to really listen to what they have to say. My whole focus for talking and listening to other people has changed.

Reactions such as these are not extraordinary or unusual for people who practice yes…and…; they are common and ordinary. You will discover the same result as Bob and Dawn in your own experiments.

Why does the awareness and practice of these experiments lead to new possibilities in our lives? Why does yes…and…make conversations more interesting to observe and more engaging to listen to? Why does it lead us to some new awareness of ourselves? Why does it function as a tool to lead us to a more intuitive or playful place?

Conflict Eraser

One effect of yes…and…is that it removes the energy of conflict. By its very definition we are agreeing to agree and taking disagreement off the plate. When someone says, “You took a wrong turn there.” – you respond with – “Yes.” Possibility! You might say you’re right. – instead of , “Maybe you want to drive”.

Do you see how simply a conflict is diverted? Is refusing to say yes and admitting a wrong turn really worth all the emotional turmoil resulting from our negative response? How often do we respond habitually with words that lead to conflict, when we could simply listen, agree, and move on?

“Yes…and…” is a skill. It is a response you can learn along the same curve as riding a bike, or writing a check. Can you imagine how many little conflicts and emotional traumas can be averted throughout the day, the week, the month – your life? At the end of any given day, you will enjoy the new accumulated energy you might have wasted on a dozen petty conflicts, and can feel a bit more alive and present with your children, family, and friends.

Conflict is not very interesting. When people are arguing over a point in conversation or interview you tend to turn off and lose interest. If a mother and daughter are arguing about what soap to buy at the grocery store, don’t you tend to veer away? When you watch one of those “Right vs. Left” news programs, don’t you just want to surf way? So, what is it about conflict that limits our interest?

When we read a novel or watch a movie, conflict is what the whole story is all about – CONFLICT. But what if we steer away from the whole story, and focus on a specific moment of dialogue. Let’s look at how conflict functions in the smaller context of a specific dialogue or conversation. As you look closer you can see that conflict limits the possibilities of what can happen next. Once a conversation moves into conflict or an argument, what are the possibilities? Usually a fight ensues leading one or both parties to exit, or attack each other leading to bodily harm, mayhem, or death. Oh boy!

We experience this predictability of conflict subconsciously. Not that you have a conscious reaction like: “They are conflicted so they are going to fight.”, but you seem to sense a move to place you have been to time, and time again. You subconsciously predict the outcome from past experience and tune out.

On the other hand, yes…and… eliminates conflict so you become engaged because you have no idea about what might happen next. In fact, anything can happen when met with a yes. With each new statement the listener is re-engaged as we learn another piece of a puzzle with no predictable solution.

In a conflict the possibilities are monotonous, predictable, and limited. In yes…and…possibilities are open, and playful, unpredictable and …possible.