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Yes and…

Earlier I wrote about speaking positively to your child. The next step comes from some comedic training I had under David Brian Alley who trained in Second City with the i.O. under Del Close and Charna Halpern (the teachers of most of the Saturday Night Live greats!).

Using these lessons, I became a founding member of a Knoxvillian comedy troupe called Einstein Simplified and performed regularly at Manhattan’s for two years. We forewent the Harold, Truth in Comedy’s performance piece, and focused on performing the exercises. The end result was a format exactly like Whose Line Is It Anyway? before it became vogue. (Our inspiration was the British version) The performances were thrilling!

Truth in Comedy: The Manual of Improvisation written by Charna Halpern, Del Close, and Kim Johnson should be considered a guide to positive living. Its lessons can be applied to the stage, business negotiations, better familial relations, politics, parenting and most social interactions. The basic lesson is "Yes and…"

For instance, on the stage, one performer might say, "the sky is green." The other performers must now roll with this statement. To negate it is argumentative and not comedic. The next performer might add, "Yes and gravity has quit working!" If another performer said something like, "No that’s crazy" comedic opportunity ends because again the performers are arguing or contradicting. So instead, the next performer agrees and adds, "Look, the ground is blue. Pull your ripcords!" By agreeing and adding information, the comedians create a story. Is it funny? That depends on the connections it makes with the live audience and physical choices the actors make. As long as the actors did not argue or contradict, they are at least entertaining in the fact that they could piece together such a story on the fly. Connections with the audience can be guaranteed by starting the story with suggestions taken from the audience. "Give us a location. And a color."

Applying this lesson to positive parenting is as simple as avoiding "no" in conversation. When your teenager asks, "can I go to the mall?" instead of abruptly declaring, "no I don’t have time because I am cleaning" agree and add, "yes, as soon as your room is clean." Do not set your child up for failure. "Yes, as soon as you have painted and re-roofed the house" is not agreeing and adding with respect to positive parenting. When your teen asks to go on a date, agree and add, "yes, as long as it is a group date with a chaperon."

Another example might be when a younger child asks for a sleep over. Delayed gratification and planning are difficult concepts in your single digits so their "yes and…"s should be more immediate; however, sleepovers give a great opportunity to teach scheduling. "Can I sleep over at Wyatt’s?" The child is obviously implying tonight. Rather than saying, "no, you didn’t plan ahead" try "yes, and let’s find a good night in our calendar." Your agreeing and adding to the conversation has created a win-win situation whereby the child’s disappointment can turn into anticipation, you bond with the child and teach cooperation as you look together at the family calendar, and planning/scheduling skills are taught. Simply saying, "no" in exasperation would have created an unhappy child who would eventually learn, "there’s no point in asking my parents."

"Yes and…" works in business too. Imagine having a sales meeting without once uttering the words "no," "but," or "not." How energized and excited the prospective client will be from such a positive experience!

Negativity seeps into our lives. The news thrives on shock, gore, and evil. Adversity, bill collectors, road ragers, corporate back stabbers, con artists, and just plain mean people abound in our lives. It is no wonder so many people need antidepressants. We should avoid adding to the bad karma! We have all heard that it is easier to smile than frown and yet we furrow our brows constantly. Breaking our negative habit takes hard work. Practice agreeing and adding! You will become a more positive, happier person with greater success in your endeavors.

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