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Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

"Helping You, Help Yourself"

Start With Yes

Start with Yes by David Zerella

{3:30 minutes to read} Several years ago, I was on a cruise where The Second City Improv Group performed. As an avid fan of comedy, I thoroughly enjoyed the show but was even more thrilled to participate in an Improv 101 seminar they held the following day. The primary concept they taught us was “start with yes.”

“Start with yes” meant agreeing unconditionally; no matter how absurd the concept, outrageous the suggestion, or ridiculous your co-stars sound: always agree. This unconditional agreement in improv keeps the skit flowing; in conflict management, it keeps the conversation going in a healthy, productive way.

In working with various individuals in all types of relationships, I always go back to the concept of “start with yes.” Typically, in conflict, we focus primarily on where we disagree, by attacking or asking a presumptuous question that leads to frequent “no” responses. “No response” illustrates a focus problem, which can be a barrier to potential mediation.

For example:

  • Person A. “You did it on purpose.”
  • Person B. “No, I didn’t. You’re being dramatic.”
  • Person A. “No, you’re not taking responsibility for your actions.”
  • Person B “No, I’m taking responsibility, it’s just not that big a deal. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”

The problem with these statements is they increase the tension in the conflict, leading to more defensiveness and blaming and less understanding and acceptance. Starting with yes can begin to defuse the conflict:

  • Person A. “I care about you and want to improve our relationship.”
  • Person B. “Yes, I care about you, too, and wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.”
  • Person A: “Yes, I know you don’t want to hurt me, but this action was hurtful. I’d like for us to be able to prevent it from happening again.”
  • Person B. “Yes, let’s figure out how we can fix this issue.”

“Starting With Yes” is the first step in taking ownership of one’s behavior while also validating the other person. In the example, person A started the conversation by identifying a common goal, which increases the likelihood of getting a “yes” response. Additionally, starting with yes made it easier for both parties to express their perspectives (“I” statements) without having to defend the position.

Although this is a brief, non-specific example, identifying commonality, starting with yes, and continuing to do so despite tension and conflict can be effective in decreasing the conflict and working collaboratively instead of in opposition. Eventually, as we practice saying yes, we can become able to disagree with someone’s position while still providing validation. But like any other skill, it takes practice.

Do you think you could benefit from starting with yes? Would you like to know more about conflict management? Could you benefit from practicing assertiveness?

David Zerella, LCSW
CBT Psychological Associates
2171 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 345
Commack, NY. 11725
(631) 486-5140
Office@cbta-ny.com

2017-05-24T07:58:18+00:00 By |0 Comments

About the Author:

David Zerella, LCSW
CBT Psychological Associates
2171 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 345
Commack, NY. 11725
(631) 486-5140
Office@cbta-ny.com

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