While reading Tina Fey’s book Bossypants something struck me. In the book she talks about the Rules of Improv. The first rule of improv is to AGREE. In order for an improv scene to work, the actors must agree with each other. Otherwise they’re at a standstill. For example, if one actor starts a scene by sitting in a pretend seat, steering a pretend steering wheel, and then says to the other actor, “where ya headed today?” The other actor knows the scene of is taking place in a taxi cab. The other actor needs to AGREE with the scene that’s been set, and go with it. If the other actor says, “What? Where am I going? What are you talking about?” then the scene stops. There’s nowhere to go and things get awkward. One way this is explained is by the phrase, “Yes, and…” That is, agree and take the scene further by adding something.
This concept applies directly to relationships. Agreeableness in relationships is very important! I cannot emphasize that enough. If I could follow that sentence with one hundred exclamation points, I would, but that might look weird in a blog post. In order to be a good partner, it’s important to be agreeable. Happy couples tend to be more agreeable. This is not necessarily because they are the same person, essentially sharing a brain, it’s because they are choosing to agree more than they disagree. When helping couples practice communicating, I often tell them to start their responses by reflecting back to their partner something with which they can agree. Often people focus on the thing their partner said that they don’t agree with and that becomes all they hear. They “forget” to mention all of the other things that they actually do agree with. In relationships it’s important to pick out the things you agree with and start there. This does not mean you have to agree with everything your partner says; obviously that is not realistic. But it is important to agree more than you disagree. Try it out and see what happens. You may just notice some positive changes in your relationship if you practice, “Yes, and…” rather than, “No but…”
I address this in more detail in my “Improving Communication in your Relationship” program at www.psychsavvy.com