What Tina Fey & Improv Can Teach about Saying "Yes and...!"

I was listening to the audiobook of Tina Fey's memoir Bossypants, when Ms. Fey started to describe how improv comedy has influenced her daily life, "As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. 'No, we can’t do that.' 'No, that’s not in the budget.' 'No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live?"

As someone who prides herself on saying "yes" to new ideas, "yes" to new challenges, and "yes" to new forks in the road, this struck me as the only way I know how to live. We ADHD'rs, whether we like it or not, see opportunities where others see only walls. It's why "no" often rubs us the wrong way. We hear "no" a lot, in fact. Especially in childhood before we've learned to effectively articulate our "out of the box" ideas. We often feel misunderstood and assume that "no" is a reflection of the flaws in our character.

Take a breath. Sometimes "no" is simply brought on by someone not yet having that "aha!" moment and got your vision. So don't turn your back on "yes." As ADHD'rs, the #1 Rule of Improv ("Yes and") is actually one of our core strengths and an example of how we collaborate well with others.

When it comes to improv comedy, "Yes and" means accepting what your fellow actors have introduced to a given scene and then building on it. Ms. Fey explains, "If I start a scene with 'I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,' and you just say, 'Yeah…' we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say, 'I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,' and you say, 'What did you expect? We’re in hell.' Or if I say, 'I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,' and you say, 'Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.' Or if I say, 'I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,' and you say, 'I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,' now we’re getting somewhere." In my opinion, "Yes and" is a truly valuable form of active participation. With "Yes and" you do not halt new contributions, but advance what you and others are creating together. We ADHD'rs are masters of extrapolating, of web-thinking. "Yes and" is simply our way of social brainstorming.

In "The Tao of Improv: 5 Rules for Improvising Your Life," Robert Taibbi LCSW, offers 4 more rules of improv that can bolster your daily life:
Rule #2. Act / React.
Rule #3. You can look good if you make your partner look good.
Rule #4. Be truthful, be vulnerable.
Rule #5. There are no mistakes.
Improv is about being present and open to what you and others offer, day in and day out. While we all have our moments of rigidity, the least you can do is take a deep breath (perhaps a day, week, month, or year later) and promise to be more fluid in the future.

Do you recognize the rules of improv in your daily life? Which do you feel is the most valuable?

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