Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Improv Can Teach the Gospel. Yes, and we'll have treats when we're done!

This week we had one of our funnest Family Home Evenings ever. Stay with me now, because this is going to sound crazy and irrelevant but turned out to be not only fun but instructional.

The number one rule for doing succesful improv is to say "yes and". No matter what your partner says, you agree and then add to it. (The idea being that the scene will die if you undermine what your partner has begun.) Watch this clip and you'll see what I mean:

So the words "yes and" are deceptively simple, but when you use them, you're doing two powerful things. You're agreeing with your partner, which everyone loves and feels validated by, but you're also extending what they said. Not disagreeing, not introducing your own topic, not even steering the conversation in a new direction.

So on Monday I showed the kids this clip and then we took turns playing "yes and." I wasn't sure if they'd get it, or like it, but everyone but Haley (who would proudly say "yes and..." and then not know how to continue) totally got in the groove. It was amazing to see how often our responses to someone are NOT "yes and," but "no," or "yes but." Rosoce was being a surly teenager and trying to flummox me by saying bizarre and morbid things, and I just kept saying "yes and" until the conversation reached the point where I cheerfully agreed, "Yes, and you have a death wish!"

When we broke for treats, we couldn't stop. People were saying things like, "Yes, and we'll sit at the table while we eat!" and "Yes, and I think you liked your lunch at school!" We were so darn positive it was almost like the Allreds'.

For me, keeping family conversation positive is like wagging the dog. Jab piles upon complaint in a riptide of negativity and I struggle to have a enough positive energy myself to singlehandedly turn the tide. Now when everyone is settling into a rut of rudness, we can start a game of "yes and." We're saying things we don't mean ("Yes, and then we'll fly to the moon!") and agreeing with things that are ridiculous ("Yes, and you'll meet your new girlfriend there!") but just saying those positive words helps put us on the right track.

I think I got this idea from this article in Real Simple magazine.


  1. Sounds like a great family tradition that will live on in "unnecessary noise" fashion. That's hysterical about Haley. I can totally see Naomi being the same way.

    We played the question game at Ruth and I's bday bash and it was totally contagious (you can only say anything in the form of a question). People walked out the door at the end of the party only speaking in questions still. One couple told me they went home and continued it with their babysitter and she thought they were totally nuts or drunk.

  2. I wish my kids would start talking in a language I understand or at least teach me their jibberish so I could play fun family games like this.

  3. What a very cool lesson idea--I'm going to use, I think the kids will eat it up.

  4. I love this idea - I will have to remember it for when my kids get a little older!! I could see your boys really getting into it.

    I was going to just stop by yesterday so you wouldn't miss us too bad - or I could come over and rummage through your toy boxes again, just for old times sake. That was quite a day - I so glad you guys got to partake in one of my most proud moments. I swear, if nothing else motherhood keeps us humble right? Thanks again for laughing with me about it.

  5. Your comment about the Allreds made me laugh out loud! But, I do agree that this sounds like a great way to turn the mood positive.

  6. This is brilliant, and adds the laughter factor Elder Wirthlin was telling us about today. Somehow in these years of mothering, I've nearly forgotten how to laugh.