The Difference Between Acceptance and Agreement


The easiest and perhaps the most concrete way to incorporate Improv Theater techniques into daily living is by understanding and adopting the concept of YES…AND. For improvisers, YES…AND serves the same purpose as the North Star does for sailors: that of a guiding light and a way to keep moving forward, even though the outcome of the journey is uncertain.

The fundamental Improv principal is that there is a difference between ACCEPTANCE and AGREEMENT. It trains us to take what we are given and build on it. Brought into our everyday lives, the concept of YES…AND allows us to deal with things as they are, not as we wish they were. We may not agree with what is said or done, but we need to accept it because that is reality. Because of YES…AND, improvisers never seem stuck or off-balance. They don’t spend time judging what they’ve been given or evaluating their response. They simply ACCEPT what they are given and ACT on it. In other words, improvisers understand the distinction between ACKNOWLEDGEMENT and APPROVAL.

IMPROV TECHNIQUE TO PRACTICE: Pay attention to all the times YES…BUT is used by you and by others around you. Develop the habit of substituting YES…AND wherever and whenever you can

HERE’S WHY IT WORKS: By training yourself to substitute YES…AND for the more common, and almost reflexive, YES…BUT, you can transform any relationship from a zero-sum game, where someone has to be right and another has to be wrong, into a dialogue where complementary, different and even opposing opinions can co-exist. You become better able to co-create with others who are allies. You also become adept at staying in dialogue with someone you disagree with. This gives you a better shot at a mutually satisfactory outcome whenever you are in communication with someone else.


Instructions can be found on p.115 of my book, “Playing Along: 37 Group Learning Activities Borrowed From Improvisational Theatre”.

Thanks for playing along! Stay well and mirthful.


Izzy Gesell is an organizational alchemist who helps individuals and organizations transform their thinking from commonplace to extraordinary. He is skilled at delivering meaningful material in a way that makes participants enjoy their time with him.To book Izzy as a speaker for your next event, click HERE.