One of the key lessons of improvisational comedy is the term “Yes, And.” The idea is that the actor accepts whatever comes at him and instead of fighting it, says “yes” to it. This really works in most business settings, too.
G.L. Hoffman offers these thoughts on listening to new ideas from On Careers for US News & World Report. The keys to this skill came from observing someone he knew and respected.
- He always has time. In fact, his attitude is one of anticipation for my ideas. It’s as though hearing my ideas—however silly, stupid or worthless—is the most important thing in his day. It’s not really, but I feel that way.
- He mirrors me. If I am animated about my idea, so is he. If I am logical and thoughtful, so is he. This visual positive feedback is the opposite of the bucket of cold water that most of us figuratively throw on someone’s new idea, with our scowls and crossed arms.
- He never, ever says my idea won’t work. He is never negative. In fact, I feel like a high school kid with his favorite teacher, the one we remember at the reunions. I feel smarter, not dumber.
- He is additive. He adds to the idea. He says “and then..,” rather than “but this…” or “I don’t think… .”
- He knows it’s not just the idea, it’s me, too. This is key—he is very good at making me feel special for having a new idea, and he is very complimentary and encouraging. He understands the first immutable law of compliments: that it does not matter if it is earned or not, we still love hearing it.
About the author: G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneuer and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, and his blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com or at JobDig.com. On Careers for US News & World Report.