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Saying Yes Part 3: Yourself

The is the third in a three-part series. Click on the links for the first and second parts.

Message 3: Say yes to yourself.

This message doesn’t always come up with the “yes, and” rule because it’s usually what happens before any dialogue is stated.

Inner dialogue in Player A’s mind:

A: Do I want to create a scene about a bank robbery.

A: Yes, yes I do.

Because A is good at self-affirmation, instead of responding (in inner dialogue) with “no, I can come up with something better”, A says yes to their idea and says (out loud) “Alright it’s time to rob the bank.” This super quick saying yes to our own ideas is also part of an improv education, but it usually gets highlighted under a different rule: “follow your feet” – where we’re specifically affirming the act of entering, editing or beginning a scene.

But there’s another time when saying yes to yourself is in the spotlight: when your partner asks you to help them tell a story you don’t want to tell.

But wait, doesn’t that go against message one? Agree that their idea is the story you’re both going with? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Because in collaboration on equal footing, which is what we’re aiming for, instead of just proclaiming “This is the story we’re telling,” Player A is actually asking Player B, “This is the story I’d like us to tell, do you want to join me?” 99% of the time Player B will say yes because they do WANT to. But there is that 1% of the time when the story crosses a line that turns Player B’s inner yes to an inner no.

An example taken from the classroom:

A: Welcome to Hell, Mr. Hitler. I hope you’ll like it here.

B: You’ve forgotten to take your meds again, haven’t you. I'm not Hitler.

Player B did not want to play Adolf Hitler and reached for the red buttons* of storytelling counteroffers to avoid playing that character. And fair enough, if you don’t want to play Adolf Hitler, you shouldn’t, full stop.

An alternative to the red buttons in a class situation would be to ask for a do over or a time out. Or if you can figure out a way to accept part of the idea or modify it and still maintain your inner yes, then of course that also works.

A second try:

A: Welcome to Hell, Mr. Hitler. I hope you’ll like it here.

B: I’m still being mistaken for him in the afterlife? Just because I have this hair and moustache!

When we consider the opening offer an invitation instead of a command, we create enough room for Player B to say yes to themselves by declining or accepting in part. Because it is a collaboration on equal footing – or at least it should be.

So there we go, three different meanings behind the simple command “say yes.” No wonder it’s confusing.

* I call these the red buttons of storytelling because they drastically alter the parameters of the initial offer and often serve as denials. They include 1) the character is “off their meds” or 2) “it’s all in your mind” 3) “Cut, cut, cut” - we’re on a movie set. Please feel free to comment with more.

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