Yes, and: Use These Two Words to Build Trust

Letter-shaped crackers against a red background

Most of us say “no” a lot, and it’s important that we do.

It’s also important that we say “yes, and” – a foundational rule in improv – so we can build trust in key moments.

Yes, and. These two short words convey a lot.

Yes is an acknowledgement: yes I see you and hear you. Yes, I acknowledge and accept your offer and contribution.

And is a reciprocal offer to engage and collaborate: and I’m going to work with, not against, you. And I’m going to share power with you so we can collaborate effectively. And I’m going to embrace possibility and co-create with you.

So what are some examples of critical moments when yes, and can be a power tool for trust building?

4 Ways to use yes, and to build trust


1. Use yes, and in a brainstorming session

Brainstorming can be scary. It involves cultivating courage, taking risks, and being vulnerable with putting your ideas forward to face possible judgment. Embracing yes, and makes brainstorming less scary and more productive for all involved.

When you’re brainstorming and the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible, yes, and indicates openness and invites generous ideation. It helps create an inclusive and encouraging space for brainstormers to take risks, to be bold, and to ideate freely. 

2. Use yes, and when welcoming someone 

It’s hard to be the new kid, especially when joining a pre-established group. Before feeling like you belong, you likely have to overcome feelings of being unsure, nervous, a bit anxious, concern about looking foolish, and hesitant to contribute.

Trust-Centered leaders help new people feel welcome, whether the new person is a new hire, a manager who has recently been promoted and is now in meetings with more senior colleagues, a new member to a community, or a prospect. When you’re interacting with someone new, yes, and can be a simple way to demonstrate care and encourage connection. When the new person shares something, support their contribution with a yes, and. This is a subtle, yet powerful way to signal to them that their contribution is noticed, appreciated, and valued. This is a practical way to include them that can help build their confidence in the new context and likely encourage them to keep showing up and contributing.

3. Use yes, and when encouraging someone to try something challenging and/or new

Trying something new and taking on challenges is daring. It involves sticking your neck out, facing the unknown, and making yourself vulnerable to take a risk that this might not work. It requires the humility to be a beginner and embrace a learning opportunity. And it also potentially has a big payoff of unlocking possibilities and making breakthroughs.

It’s easier to be daring when you feel supported by those around you and underpinned by psychological safety. Yes, and can help foster those conditions. Yes, and helps you empathize with the person taking the risk and places you on the same team, encouraging them in pursuit of their goal.  “Yes, I can see that there’s a lot of fear here, and I can also see how much you have to offer and it would be a shame to keep that to yourself. Keep going!

4. Use yes, and in a Q&A session

Have you ever been the first person to ask a question in a Q&A session? It takes guts to sit with the tension and go first. And how your first question is received sets the norms and tone for the questions to follow.

If you’re the person answering the questions, you are in position to make space for possibility, especially when responding to the first question. How you respond signals with action whether or not you’re truly open to receiving questions, or merely saying that you are. If your response to the first question shuts down the audience, they’re less likely to ask you questions. Yes, and shows respect to your audience and builds connection.

Is the first question a tough one? Then be sure to yes, and! “Yes, that’s an interesting question, and while that’s not the focus today, I’m happy to chat about it offline later. Please come find me.”

Building trust by embracing yes, and

No is a terminal point. It prioritizes our ideas and opinions over the contributions of others. Yes, and includes and unleashes others by inviting and acknowledging their inputs and fostering the conditions for effective collaboration. Yes, and opens up pathways and possibilities to move forward together.

In what key moments do you think you could more readily embrace yes, and to build trust and create possibility? Is it one of the examples listed above, or does another moment come to mind? How are you going to commit to your practice of yes, and this week?

A book with the title "Building Trust at Scale"

P.S. Have you grabbed your FREE copy of the Building Trust at Scale Playbook? It includes high-impact tools and practical frameworks to help you build trust and set your team, organization, or community on a path to unleash possibilities.