The word improv got my attention yesterday morning while I was listening to KMOX.com. Like most stations with streaming audio, KMOX replaces the on-air commercials with different content. I like the featurettes from CNET, Last.fm, CHOW and other CBS Interactive properties.
Making conversation with relatives at Thanksgiving was the topic of the Chowtips feature. The host said to use the improv commandment, “yes, and…” which is another way of saying “accept and advance.” In a specific example she said to acknowledge what an elderly aunt said and then add your own thought, which should encourage the aunt to expound on her original statement.
My wife says that I interview the other guests at dinner parties. I try to avoid yes/no questions so that I get more than a yes/no answer. In the improv games “Oracle” and “One Voice Interview,” it’s especially important to avoid yes/no questions. Improv requires you to listen to the other player and accept whatever answer they give. Yes/no questions are a way of trying to control the conversation by limiting the potential response. The only situation I can think of where yes/no questions are appropriate would be when a lawyer is questioning a witness. They say that an attorney should never ask a question in court unless he or she already knows the answer.