"Yes, and..." The other magic word

Tuesday, September 12, 2023 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

“Yes, AND…”

The Other Magic Word

What if I told you there is a magic word you can say to increase trust and engagement in your learning spaces? Too good to be true, right?

I will concede my first claim is an exaggeration, but the words we choose do have power, and a simple shift in word choice can significantly influence the culture of learning .

The use of “yes, and” phrasing or thinking is not a new concept and many professionals employ this tool in their daily communication. The concept comes from the world of improv.

“Yes, and” works in improv because the actors trust that whatever choice they make will be met with acceptance and validation. This is the same reason why using this phrasing in learning spaces can be so influential when working to encourage engagement and influence a culture of trust.

How can we use language to build trust in a learning environment?

So how and when can you incorporate this phrase into the language you use? A simple place to start is to think about any time you would say, “yes, but” and start substituting “yes, and.”

This simple exchange of three letters can change the entire tone of a conversation.

“yes, but” says I waited for you to stop talking. You’re wrong. This is what I think and I’m right. Likely your intention behind the “but” is not any of those things, at least consciously, and yet that’s the experience the person has.

“yes, and” says I hear you. You’re right. I value what you say. Let me join you in this discussion.

Imagine if you took the risk to shared your thoughts and were met with this experience of feeling heard and valued. Likely you would feel more comfortable, more confident, and would be more willing to speak up in the future.

Active Listening

This phrasing is a way to demonstrate active listening. By using “yes, and” we keep the conversation moving.

When people feel heard, they feel respected and important. By fostering these experiences in our interactions, we begin to create a feeling of trust in our learning spaces which can lead to an increase in psychological safety. When people feel safe in their work environment, they are more willing to take the risk of failing, and this is the space where the deepest learning takes place.

It’s not just about the phrase- acknowledge how the other person is contributing and add to the story.

While uttering the phrase “yes, and” is how we verbally engage with other people, the real weight of the words is the experience that comes with them.

We are acknowledging that we value that person and what they have to say. We’re partnering with them. We’re creating spaces where people can show up with the knowledge they have and learn new skills that will carry them forward in their careers.

“Yes, and” allows two seemingly diametric things to exist at the same time. Employees may complain training messes up their work schedule and they already know how to do x, y, and z, and training is important to ensure all employees are prepared for their roles because the way we do things evolves.

I encourage you to give this phrasing a try and see what shifts you notice in your training spaces and other interactions.

Do you have an interesting topic to explore or perspective to share? If you’d like to share your thoughts with our community, reach out to Communications@tdmaine.org.



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