“I love acting class because I feel comfortable talking about anything.” This unprompted remark from one of my nine-year-old students comes during a break in class.
I barely get out, “Oh, great! I’m glad you feel comfortable,” before she’s off and running to a friend to chat about the differences in their school lunch programs.
I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess, this comment arose because earlier in the class the young students had been sharing how busy and tired they feel with all their extracurriculars, and we held space for all their feelings and thoughts about why they did and did not feel like being in acting class that day.
One of the many things I’ve learned from TBG co-artistic director Seth Barrish is the power of “Yes, and…” both in and outside of class. If our defenses are up, we oftentimes don’t communicate as clearly as we otherwise could. I’ve found immense success in relaying potentially difficult information in everyday scenarios by using “Yes, and…” as a guiding principle.
“I hear that you didn’t mean it that way, and I want to let you know that it hurt my feelings,” versus, “I hear that you didn’t mean it that way, but I want to let you know that it hurt my feelings.” Do you feel a difference in your nervous system reading each one?
This small linguistic shift has been a huge game changer for me as a teacher and a human trying her best to communicate kindly and clearly with those around me.
Creatively, this approach has been extremely useful. So much of what I do is collaboration: I find that holding space for my own ideas about a story while using “Yes, and…” to validate others’ ideas as well makes for an easier and more supportive process.
A director gives me a blocking note that feels wonky to me? I might say, “I hear I need to end up on this side of the stage on this line, and I’m having some trouble figuring out what motivates me to move there.” This, hopefully, invites the director to know that I’m both accepting their note and also advocating for myself as a storyteller so we can find a solution that meets both of our needs.
The goal is always clear storytelling and clear communication. Try using “Yes, and…” to help with that!
Arielle Beth Klein not only teaches Beginner Acting and some Youth Classes at TBG, but also loves working with fellow storytellers to achieve their creative goals. You can listen to her podcast Just Start Storytelling or follow her on Instagram @arielle_beth to stay in touch.