The other day I was dancing with this guy.
He had never done much Contact Improv before and was asking me about it as we were dancing. When I found out he was into Comedy Improv I told him the principles of Contact Improv were very similar to the principles of Comedy Improv.
“Like saying YES?”
“Like saying YES AND…”
Which is standard procedure in Comedy Improv
Make Your NO Sound Like a YES
He loved it and said he is often criticized by his colleagues for saying YES too often.
I said it seemed like saying YES is in your nature.
He replied that he would like to be able to say no as well.
I said the trick is to make your NO sound like a YES.
It is similar in dance when someone makes an offer
if I refuse it and make my refusal part of the dance
the refusal of the offer is still a YES to the dance.
I told him that I teach conscious parenting courses
and this is a major component.
If there comes a time when you have to say NO to your child,
& I hope those times are rare,
if you can make the NO sound like
a supportive and excited YES
then the whole experience is much more
pleasant, bonding and uplifting for the child.
I Gave Him An Example Of Infusing The NO With YES
Imagine your child wants to do something that you just don’t have time for or can’t do for some reason at the moment. Instead of saying
“NO. I don’t have time at the moment.”
It could be more encouraging to say “YES and…”
“YES my love.
I think that idea is wonderful.
I would love to do that with you.
It seems like the most exciting thing.
At this moment I can’t because I’m really busy and I’m sorry,
but oh my goodness what a wonderful idea.
You are really very creative and smart
for thinking of such an idea.
I’m so excited about when we finally get to do it together.
This is disguising the NO as a YES.
Using a Love Buffer To Ease The Pain
Of course the child knows they have been told NO,
but the love and energy,
the approval and joy that they have received
deeply compensates for the loss, for the pain of receiving the NO.
When a NO is given without this buffer
it feels like a personal rejection.
Even if your reasons are totally not personal,
it still feels very personal to a young child
or even an older child.
Okay, I’m 46 and I still feel that way if I’m honest.
When you can surround the No with love, acceptance and joy
the children will feel your love more than the denial of their request.
This actually makes them feel more loved
because they can feel your regret at having to say NO.
Give It A Try
The next time you find yourself about to say NO,
see if you can reframe the expression to disguise the NO as a YES.
A YES filled with love, appreciation and a little regret.
Make sure your own emotional feelings around the issue are positive and sincere.
This of course may be a new behaviour,
and may be very uncomfortable for you at times.
I think if you give it a try,
even when it seems wildly inconvenient,
you will soon find a wonderful effect will come from it.
That your children are much more open to you
when you have to say NO
because they will no longer feel it as
a loss of connection or approval
and this is so wonderful.
p.s. for more info on how comedy improv and parenting are related check out my blog about Tina Fey