Improv skills lead to success

“Yes…and” isn’t always your friend in business

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Improvisers are trained to accept other players’ offers so scenes can move forward. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for an improvised performance to succeed unless the actors say “yes” to others’ contributions “and” extend or heighten those offers.

In negotiations of all types, and especially in a business context, part of the battle for victory hinges on establishing the reality you’re discussing. As a writer, I have to place a value on my services and the benefits they bring to my clients. A potential client who’s interested in getting the best service at the lowest possible price could point out that they are a new company acquiring lots of content, so they aren’t in a position to pay me what I think I deserve. The “Yes…and” approach pushes me to accept what they’ve said as truth and take the contract as offered. The problem is that I’m not in a scene meant to entertain an audience — I’m in a negotiation over whether I get paid what I deserve. Many factors influence the decision, such as whether I’m bored or need the work, but in the end I have to live with the consequences of my choice. Accepting less than I’m worth drives down my value and, worse, my self-perceived value. Unless the situation is dire, you shouldn’t bend to the version of reality they’ve put forth.

You should also watch out for internal battles at a company, even one where you’ve worked for a while and established a trusting relationship with your colleagues. Your co-workers might misunderstand a situation or, if you’re competing for a promotion or assignment,  want to influence how a situation is perceived. “Yes…and” can be a weakness others exploit. It’s tough to maintain a proper balance between acceptance and skepticism, but it’s worth the effort to try.

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