Don’t Bury Someone Under Your But (Not A Typo: But, Not Butt)

Don’t bury someone under your but. Not your “butt,” your “but.”

Improv comedy has an idea called, “yes, and.” It says when two or more people are improvising together, the person who goes second accepts what the first person sets up (“yes”), and builds on top of it (“and”). It’s a simple formula for cooperation.

The opposite of “yes, and” is “no, but.” It’s a classic parenting/middle management shutdown and distinctly not comedic. “No, you can’t go out, but you can clean your room.” “No, our firm doesn’t do that, but we do do this (insert original thing you were trying to sidestep).”

Deceptively close but equally commanding is the, “yes, but.” It offers a comforting “yes,” with a follow-up smackdown. “Yes, but” is common in workplace and marital disputes. “Yes. That’s a great idea, but you should still do it my way.”

If the goal is cooperation, stick with “yes, and.” Don’t bury people under your “but.” Extend a hand and an “and.” “Yes, and” signals that whatever we are creating is additive and communal. If we want to build a business, shape or reshape a culture, or just take good care of our clients, “yes, and” ensures we are all working together.

I learned/stole the expression “Don’t bury people under your butt” from Alan Alda’s conversation with Brené Brown on his podcast.

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