Author: John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
I love stand-up comedy. Few things feel better than laughing until you can’t breathe. My love for improv comedy has grown over the past several years, particularly after seeing live improv at the local high school. I was impressed with how frequently I broke out laughing at the students on stage who had little comedic training. And it got me thinking, “How do comedians build on other actors’ lines to cause us to laugh?”
The answer is that improv relies on building upon what the last person who spoke gives you. Imagine for a moment you are doing improv: You have the next line in an over-the-top scene where you are at a family farm, feeding the horses, with a stock broker who is desperately in love with the prettiest horse in the corral. For improv to be successful and funny, you have to build on that scene. It is that scene with which you have been presented. You don’t question it. You don’t negate any part of the scene. You go with it. So you might go in the direction of suggesting the stock broker look for other ‘dates’ on Farmersonly.com or, better yet, FarmAnimalsOnly.com. The binding, unbreakable rule is that you build upon what came before.
You can hear this everyday in how you use language. Most often, it’s heard as “Yes, and.”
“Yes, I hear you, AND have you looked at this possibility?”
“Yes, I would like to go to the movies, AND I’d like to go to dinner.”
This approach draws other people closer to you, gets you engaged in life and generates stories which you can share with others, particularly when you say yes to fun activities with friends and family that lay just on the other side of your comfort zone.
On the other hand, one of the thoughts that fuels depression and pessimism is ‘Yea, but…” I hear this frequently with certain clients who are anxious, angry or depressed. For example…
“Yea, but I’ve tried all those things.”
“Yea, but that will never work for me.”
“Yea, but I could never do that.”
“Yea, but that’s too much work.”
As I’m teaching certain clients proven tools that could alleviate their suffering, they are ‘yea, butting’ me. This error in thinking prevents people from actually trying new tools which could improve their lives. It shuts down the flow of ideas. It kills conversations. And it keeps people safely in their comfort zone. Unfortunately, real personal growth only happens outside of the comfort zone.
Here are some examples of better ways to reframe these ‘Yea, but…’ statements:
“Yes, I tried that before. And perhaps I didn’t grasp it entirely. I’m going to try it again!”
“I haven’t had much success with that. And I know people don’t always learn on the first try. I’m open to another attempt.”
“I haven’t done that in the past. However, what I’ve done in the past hasn’t worked so well for me. Let me try something different. I’ll give it a shot!”
“It seems like that will take some work. And no change has ever come without effort and perseverance. I’ll try it!”
In the 2008 comedy, Yes Man, Jim Carrey plays Carl, an introverted, pessimistic single guy with a dead end loan officer job (the ‘Yea, but’ guy). Carl hides from life and friends in his apartment until he attends a personal growth seminar with a ‘Yes Guru,’ Terrance. Carl makes a reluctant ‘covenant’ with Terrance to say ‘Yes’ at every opportunity. And this simple change to ‘Yes, and’ transforms his life. Carl has a series of adventures which make his life more interesting and fulfilling – even when the story isn’t altogether pleasant. When life hands you an invitation, accept the invitation.
As an aside, I recently shared this article with a pessimistic client who, upon finishing reading it, turned to me and said “Yea, but I hated that movie.” There you go. Thank you. You just proved my point.
Life is all about the story. Today’s story may be good or it may be bad. Regardless, it’s an interesting story to share with others. And stories are how we connect with other people. And connection is critical. So try saying ‘Yes, and’ to life.
Pay attention to what you say for a week. When you hear ‘Yea, but’ change it to ‘Yes, and’. It takes practice. It will push you out of your comfort zone. This one tiny change has lead to impressive improvement in the lives of many of my clients. Try ‘Yes, and’ for yourself for one week. Be a Yes Man (or a Yes Woman). Your future self will thank you for it down the road as you will be significantly more satisfied and engaged with your life.
About the Author:
Nationally-recognized expert in anger management and positive psychology, Dr John Schinnerer is an award-winning author, speaker, consultant and expert coach in the fields of Positive Psychology and Anger Management.
Dr. John has been nationally recognized as one of the premiere experts in his fields. He has appeared on a variety of national media outlets providing an expert view on managing anger and providing insights to a happier life. Dr. John’s work can be found in both print publications, radio, CD, DVD and TV. He is excited to announce that he was selected as one of the consultants and behavior experts along with Dr. Paul Ekman and Dr. Dacher Keltner on the Academy-award winning Pixar Film, Inside Out.
Dr. John Schinnerer, is a UC Berkeley-trained Ph.D intently focused in the field of happiness. He has uncovered the key to a happier life. By combining the areas of anger management and positive psychology, he created a unique and intuitive marriage of two fields that were historically not related. The revolutionary formula…
Anger Management + Positive Psychology = Happiness
Dr. John has given a Psychiatric Grand Rounds presentation for Kaiser Permanente on positive psychology. He has taught numerous psychologists, doctors and mental health professionals about the benefits of positive psychology. He has consulted with major companies such as Sutter Health, Kaiser, UPS regarding the need for and implementation of emotional intelligence. His book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought was awarded Best Self-Help Book of the Year. Dr. John was recently included on a music album by Positive Music Imperative, speaking on the importance of positivity in music lyrics. Dr. John’s blog on positive psychology, Shrunken Mind, was named one of the top 10 positive psychology blogs on the internet by PostRank and Alltop.