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Curiosity Kills The Conflict Or How To Make Opposition Your Ally

We can all take a note from improvisational theater in dealing with opposition. In improvisational theater, actors are taught to accept whatever comic material comes their way and then figure out a way to advance it. It’s called the “Yes…And” principle.

For example, if one actor hands you an imaginary box and says, “Here’s your birthday gift. It’s an alligator,” your job is to accept that that box is an alligator. Just go with it. And then, find a way to further the story-line: “Why thank you. Now I can have the best wrestling match ever.”

Imagine if you had said, “That’s not an alligator, it’s a box.” You would have ruined the beginnings of what could have been a pretty inventive story-line and made it more difficult for your fellow actor to engage in a creative exchange with you.

“Yes…And” is tool for collaboration that works just as well in business as it does in theater. The next time someone tells you no, pushes back on your idea, or refuses to get on board, try it out. “Yes…And” will make the other person feel like their concerns are being heard and that their opinion matters. It takes an opposition and turns it into an opportunity to advance your idea and your vision in ways you may not have been able to come up with without the help of a partner.

“Yes…And” speaks to the Asset-Based Thinking principle of curiosity in conflict, which I expand on in my upcoming book, Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, & Do. Genuine curiosity sows the seeds of trust and good will, which significantly lowers the bar to finding a way out of conflict.

So the next time you are faced with opposition, remember the power of curiosity, and say “Yes…And”. Just go with it. To get you started, I’ve outlined just a few examples of how this can work in a business setting.

Opposition: You don’t have your facts straight.
Yes…And I bet you can help me figure out the holes.

Opposition: That will never work.
Yes…let’s figure out exactly why.

Opposition: We aren’t ready for that.
Yes…can you explain to me what “ready” looks like?

Do you have a “Yes…And” success story? Tell me about it in the comments…

Dr. Kathy Cramer

Kathryn D. Cramer, PH.D.
Founder and Managing Partner, The Cramer Institute