Comments Off on Yes…And

Just say Yes…and.  That’s the secret of relationship jazz.

So often the first word out of our mouths is No.  That may happen at home, in the workplace, and in the public square. 

That’s a dumb idea…  We tried that before and it flopped… You know we can’t afford it… You’ll shoot your eye out… There you go again… I fundamentally disagree with your assumptions.

For all too many of us, “no” is the default response whenever we hear something new.  And it has the effect of sabotaging our relationships.

Jazz musicians have learned how to say “yes.”  That, in fact, is the secret of jazz.  When the sax player takes the song in a whole new direction, the bass player doesn’t say, “No, you’re doing it wrong.”  He responds Yes…and.  “Yes, I see what you’re doing there, and now let me add this.”

It’s called “accepting every offer.”  That’s what makes great jazz sound like great jazz. 

Neurological research shows that when jazz musicians listen to others, wait their turn, and then offer something of their own to the mix, their brains open up to entirely new possibilities.  The part of the brain that hangs on to the “same old same old” is momentarily deactivated. 

What does it mean to accept every offer in a personal relationship? 

Saying Yes doesn’t mean we think every idea is a great idea.  But instead of saying, “That’s stupid!” or “You’re flat wrong!” we say Yes…and.

Yes/and responses open up new possibilities.  They allow marriages and teams and friendships and political partnerships to take hold of a merely OK idea, then gradually keep building up and adding on in pursuit of a great idea.  When we accept someone else’s starting point – “I see that, and we could also do this” – we not only treat our partners with respect.  We make them look good, too.

Mostly, yes/and responses generate hope. 

You may be disappointed with the newly elected officials who are in the spotlight on this Inauguration Day.  A poll last weekend indicated that one-third of Americans don’t believe the new president is legitimate.  That is not the optimal starting point for the next four years of our shared public life. 

How can we bridge our Grand Canyons of anger, mistrust and grievance? 

We can start by saying Yes…and

Accepting every offer may feel like betraying our deepest principles.  Handing victory to the Other Side.  Inviting the end of the world.

But the world will not end.  We don’t need to catastrophize our disappointment.  The overwhelming counsel of the New Testament is to find common ground, and, in every situation, to reach out with love.  “Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.” (Romans 12:14-16, The Message)

With time, we’ll come to understand that No isn’t the only reasonable approach to life.

And we might end up making some great music together.