As Thanksgiving approaches, we anticipate the warm feeling of family gathered for a reunion of stories, good food, and football. Inevitably, though, there comes a moment when that warmth comes from friction, as someone hogs the conversation or dismisses us in a way that makes our eyes roll, our heads shake, and our legs carry us to the nearest exit for safer space. This year, instead of bringing a dish of food, I'm bringing a "dish" of improv. Try these three tactics, extrapolated from Yes, And by Second City comedy experts Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton, as an antidote to ease the tension and increase the likelihood of a happy Thanksgiving.
- Yes, and: The key to improv is that the players say, "yes, and...", not "no" or "yes, but." "Yes, and" gives every idea an opportunity to grow. It keeps the conversation open and moving forward, forcing people to be in the moment. Saying "yes, and" at the dinner table affirms what another is saying, opens up possibilities, and takes topics on interesting twists and turns. It redirects and invites people into the conversation.
Try It: When your older sister asks, condescendingly, when your ski patrolman husband is going to get a "real job," fight the urge to ask her what she would know about a real job considering that she has been "going to go to law school" for the better part of the last decade. Instead, try "yes, and last week Steve's boss let us ski before the mountain opened up to the public and the views were breathtaking. What's the most beautiful view you've seen this year?"
Try It: When Uncle Dave interrupts little Katie's story about her class trip, speak up! "Actually, I'd love to hear more about your favorite animal at the zoo, Katie."
Armed with "yes, and", the notion of family as ensemble, and the process of co-creation, we can walk away from the table feeling as happy as when we arrived. Hopefully, people will ask for seconds of this "dish" next year.