Scarlett Letter #143: “Yes, and” self-talk worked for me!

As seasoned professionals, we’ve all developed our own methods for coping with stress and negativity. This quarter, unusually high stress reared its ugly head in both professional and teaching situations. And no matter how many chill-out techniques I tried, I couldn’t conquer my tension. I finally decided to try the ‘Yes, and’ exercise, but with a twist: instead of building off another person to energize and create a momentum of positivity, I had to do it alone. READ: self-talk.

So, here’s my latest self-talk strategy. In the eleventh hour, right before I enter a room of {fill in the blank: unreceptive students; prospective clients that revel in aggressive challenging; non-gracious competitors}, I have a conversation with myself, focused on the principle of ‘Yes, and’ (considered the cornerstone of improvisational theater). I make sure that it’s not simply a list, but rather a series of statements that build upon one another–moving the ‘story’ forward to create a positive, accessible image in my mind.

An example in my higher ed classroom:

“I’m going to go into this classroom and the students will be fully prepared with their homework.”

“Yes, and they will pay close attention to today’s content.”

“Yes, and while I am talking, they are going to be taking notes, and interjecting their own ideas.”

“Yes, and when they interject those ideas, they are going to do so with a positive and productive tone of voice.” 

“Yes, and when we begin to do interactive exercises, the students are going to nuture one another and be supportive.”

“Yes, and during the class, none of the students are going to come with some special circumstance or need that must be accommodated.” 

“Yes, and as the class winds down, we will all have a collective feeling of satisfaction from time well spent.”

….and so forth. It took a LOT of ‘yes, ands’. The result: my heart rate slowed; my tummy loosened up; my jaws unclenched; and I powered through.  I actually entered this difficult classroom with a more neutral (leaning towards positive!) expectation.

For additional ideas on managing tension and putting it to better use, keep an eye out for my upcoming article: “Leverage your nervous energy. Tips and techniques for converting anxiety into positive energy.”

Tags: Anne Scarlett A/E Marketing, anxiety management, linkedin, meeting facilitation, presentation skills

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May 10, 2012