• Alice Devine

"Yes, And.." -- How Improvisation Techniques Can Help Your Real Estate Career...

Updated: Sep 21

Stomping and laughter bursts from the second floor. There, the nation’s oldest collegiate improvisation troupe — My Mother's Fleabag, at Boston College — is rehearsing. The group boasts alums the likes of former SNL cast member Amy Poehler and Oscar-winning Tom McCarthy. The rules are simple, although not easy. No profanity. No ending the scene by delivering a punch line (at your partner’s expense). No overt sexual references.

So what’s a participant to do? Well, it’s all about teamwork. The goal is to build off the other person’s contribution. Improvisation groups—the art form called improvuse the phrase, “Yes and—" to agree and then deepen the exchange.

Not just a cheap laugh, improvisation develops serious conflict resolution skills. Corporations have sat up in their conference chairs and employed consultants to impart similar skills to employees. The Harvard Business Review reports, “we’ve seen that improv principles are highly applicable to the corporate world.” Other public-facing entities, such as San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, enlist companies like The Engaging Educator to train volunteers how to engage unruly school groups and shy adults using classic improv games.

In addition to amplifying conversation, improv techniques can provide structure to negotiations. The classic book Getting to Yes by Fisher, Ury and Patton describes a process that “decides issues based on their merits rather than through a haggling process.” The book advises looking for common ground and then, in the areas of discord, relying on objective standards rather than personal ones.

So how might improv translate to the commercial office building? A hypothetical exchange between property manager and tenant might go like this:

Tenant: We’re having a tough time with the lack of parking.

Astute Property Manager: Yes, and—is that because you have more employees or visitors?

Tenant: Well, we’ve hired 10 new salespeople who need cars during the day.

Astute Property Manager: Yes, and—we can dedicate more parking spaces with any office expansion. Do you need some more space?

Tenant: Let me ask the VP in charge of Sales.

Astute Property Manager: Yes and—in the meantime I can get you a copy of the local transit and bus schedules and our building bike room information in the event employees want to pursue some other options.

You get the drift. Although it may seem a bit contrived, by saying, “Yes, and…” one picks up (and continues) where others leave off. The benefit, author Daniel Pink suggests, is that, “Instead of swirling downward into frustration, ‘Yes and’ spirals upward toward possibility. When you stop you’ve got a set of options, not a sense of futility.”

Watching Boston College's "Fleabag" reminds me of the talent and skill it takes to cultivate a “yes, and—" mentality. Practice makes perfect, whether switching between southern accents onstage or trying to resolve some lease differences. Amy Poehler, are you listening?


Getting to Yes by Fisher, Ury and Patton

Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2015/03/3-improv-exercises-that-can-change-the-way-your-team-works

Mymothersfleagbag.com: http://www.mymothersfleabag.com

The Harvard Negotiation Project: https://www.pon.harvard.edu/category/research_projects/harvard-negotiation-project/

To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink