The True Power of “Yes, and…”

Reading books about management and teamwork, it’s fairly common to find techniques such as ‘yes, and…’.  The purpose is to encourage participation in group discussions by using phrases which are positive, rather than negative.

For example, if someone raises an idea and you reply with “no, but” then they feel less inclined to participate in the discussion. However, if you say “yes, and” then it sends a subconscious message that you agree with them and that their idea is valuable.

Something I read recently made me look at this in a new light, and gave me an insight into the true value of techniques like this. I’m reading The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor (which is very good so far) and he refers to some research by Marcial Losada known as the Losada Ratio. This the ratio of positive to negative interactions someone requires to be successful in a corporate environment. It is 2.9013, or to make things simple 3.

This means that in a work environment, people need 3 times as many positive interactions as negative ones in order to be successful. In fact, the goal is much higher than that, more like 6 to 1, for high performance to exist.

Seen in this way, “yes, and” is not simply useful, it’s imperative. Every time we utter “no, but” in a meeting, we’re not only sending a negative message to everyone there, but we’re also cancelling out the last 3 positive interactions. One simple negative comment destroys 3 positive interactions, you can’t remedy it by saying something positive, you need to say 3 positive things just to get back to where you were!

When I look at it like this, the true power of the “yes, and” and similar techniques suddenly become so much more important.

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