In improvisation there is an exercise called, “Yes, and.”  This exercise is intended to help create a scene and further the drama.  Improviser says, “Do you want to go with me to the beach?”  If their fellow actor responded, “No,” the scene would die right there.  But, if they responded, “Yes, and, if it’s alright, I promised my grandma I’d bring her a set of socket wrenches. Can we make a pit stop? ” Then the scene has some traction and something to build on.

What’s curious about this exercise is that it really does have a place in our everyday lives to help build our sense of belonging and connection.  So often, when we are talking to another person, their first response is to attempt to relate by immediately relaying something about their own life or situation that they feel will display that they understand. For example: Person A: “Wow! That was a long day at work.  I’m so relieved to be home.”  Person B: “Oh, me, too.  Today was incredibly busy and stressful.”  This is so common in our society that I believe it is actually thought of as relating; but really it’s the “No” response.

The person responding is missing the opportunity to investigate and learn more about what the other person truly means.  I’m guessing that every reader has filled in what Person A meant when they said it was a “long day at work,” but in reality, we are merely making assumptions based on what it means to us, personally.  We do this so often in our conversations with others it is no surprise how much triggering and frustration can build between people so quickly, as people rarely feel like they are being heard, or, eventually, valued.

What if, instead of immediately jumping in about themselves, Person B put on their high inquisitor’s cap, and allowed themselves to investigate deeper into what Person A meant.
“It’s so nice to have you home.  What made it a long day for you?” and give them a chance to actually tell you more about it. And as they share, see what more you might uncover; keep finding those places where you can ask your, “Yes, and” questions.  By allowing Person A to freely discuss with you, you are creating a stronger connection, as they are feeling heard, and Person B is able to really ingest more about who Person A is.

I’m sure it must feel good to know Person A is relieved to be home, but knowing the meaning behind that creates more connection. “Well, there was a power outage at the office today, and all of our equipment was offline for over an hour.  When it finally came back on we were frantically trying to get caught back up.”  Now, Person B, if they immediately jump in with their last power outage experience, or their stressful day, then again, it’s the “No” of the conversation. “Do they know what caused the power outage?” “Were you able to get back on track?” “Were you able to get in any lunch break today?” I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.

Think about how much your life’s adventures shape you each and every day.  This is happening to every person.  So, for couples, it is especially important to see those changes in your partner, so you can grow with them, and ultimately feel more connected to the amazing person that they are.  It seems so often I hear about relationships ending because people “grew apart.”  As I see it, this kind of listening is one of the key ingredients in preventing that.

I want to go back to the original example, and the innate instinct that is built into all of us to feel like we belong.  Person B’s initial response most likely had the good intention of finding a connection between them and Person A.  Belonging is a very powerful need; in fact, in Transformational Coaching, it is considered one of the pillars of what shapes our actions.  The three pillars being: love, safety, and belonging; these shape all of our actions and reactions.

We all want to feel as though the people we are engaging with are as interested in us as we are in them.  The really important thing to remember is that they are trying to, they just may not have these same tools to show it.  It’s up to us to start that ball rolling, and I assure you, those around you will catch on.

It reminds me of that beautiful quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

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