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September 7, 2021

Two little words that can transform your conversations

Two little words that can transform your conversations

I’m in my Zone of Genius when I’m having lively and animated conversations. Time fades, the whites of my eyes widen and my sense of connection with the person I’m talking with profoundly deepens.

My boyfriend is an excellent conversationalist. He knows lots about lots, is incredibly expressive and has a great feeling sense. But like lots of directive extraverts, he has a tendency to insert false objections into conversations that trigger a disagreement that doesn’t actually exist. I do this too.

Does this sound familiar? You’re talking about an interesting issue and enthusiastically make a point, they say ‘no’ then add another point, your ego hears the ‘no’ as a disagreement and so you double down on reiterating your point because it seems to have been unacknowledged. Back and forth you go before you’re in a friendly argument of ferocious agreement.

A common version of this I hear from clients is when team members jump to the negative first. While some amount of scepticism is essential to test and challenge ideas, when people default to the negative, it shuts down ideas and sucks the energy out of the conversation. To throw a gender dimension into the mix, most corporate women can recall times their idea was overlooked in a male-dominated group discussion only to have a man bring it up moments later and have it celebrated.

Instead of saying ‘no’ or disregarding someone’s point, Andrew (the BF) and I have started using ‘yes, and’. When we say ‘yes, and’, the discussion evolves into a connected conversation where ideas layer and build upon each other, and the ego doesn’t get in the way.

While some amount of scepticism is essential to test and challenge ideas, when people default to the negative, it shuts down ideas and sucks the energy out of the conversation.

Sure, sometimes ‘no, because’ makes perfect sense but more often than not there’s something to acknowledge. And when we do, the energy exchange is so much more rewarding. We now have this shortcut… ”I think that’s a ‘yes, and’”. As soon as the other says it, we know what we mean and can quickly shift into a flow of ideas. No one needing to be right, both people just exploring possibilities.

This isn’t an original idea. In fact, it originates from improv comedy where the participants are required to build on their fellow actors storylines. ‘Yes, and’ provides the means to do that.

How often do you find yourself in a disagreement or contested conversation where there’s plenty of alignment yet the tone still gets defensive? Try introducing ‘yes, and’; you’ll be surprised what a difference it can make.

YO MAIL

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