Tina Fey is my life coach.

Tina Fey is my life coachAnd not just because she’s a Bossypants. It’s because she taught me how to interact more
creatively with the world and other people — especially the difficult people.

Tina believes you can change your life with her Rules of Improvisation. WAIT! Before you bolt, I’m not talking about joining a comedy improv group. Instead I’m proposing IMPROVISED LIVING. See how Tina’s rules can improve interactions with your sweetheart, coworkers, family — and your frenemy.



RULE 1: AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. Respect what your partner has created and start from an open-minded place.

This rule doesn’t mean saying yes to everything in your life or being fake or pretending you’re happy when you aren’t. Instead, you’re staying aware and taking responsibility for the impact you have on others. Saying YES — if only in your head — is a relationship builder and can proactively move the conversation in a new direction. You can say YES to the person and still say NO to the idea.

For example: If a client says to me, “I’m going to be fired” — and I say “No you aren’t,” then I’m an asshat. Saying yes doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with what is being said. Instead I’m acknowledging that the statement is true for the other person. Saying NO can be a rejection or create a block in the conversation. By agreeing with the reality established by the other person, I maintain the connection between us.

This rule also requires active listening, which means that all of my attention is on the other person. When someone is talking, we’re usually jumping to conclusions and preparing our response. Focusing on the reality that is created helps me to be in the moment and respond to what is really being said.


RULE 2: Not only say yes, but YES, AND. Agree and then ADD SOMETHING OF YOUR OWN.

Here’s how this works. A client of mine was recently pulled away from home due to a family emergency. As a result, her sweetheart is handling more of the childcare. He made the comment, “I’m now a stay-at-home dad.”
And my client said, “Don’t say that!”
An improvised response might be, “Yes, and I’m grateful.”

This may not be easy in the red-hot moment!! However, YES AND may help the dad to feel heard and minimize any tension between the two of them. Improv is designed to keep things positive and make the other person look good. If both people feel validated, it can be much easier to talk through the tough stuff.


RULE 3: MAKE STATEMENTS. Whatever the problem, BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.Tina's eyeroll

As Tina says, “We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag.”

This rule challenges me to step up and contribute. When I feel superbratty about what someone said or did, it’s so damn easy for my reflexes to take over. And typically my reflexes have a fourth grade mentality. The rule of making statements can be particularly difficult if you’re curious, like to ask clarifying questions or are an obstacles expert.

To keep my interactions productive (and avoid annoying the other person), I slow my response waaaaay down. I can then notice my reflexive tendencies and sidestep that fourth grade pothole. By taking a beat, I can find another response that’s more solution-oriented. Improv shifts my thinking to a more creative and collaborative place. Though my reaction time may be slower, I’m bringing more consciousness and intention to what I say.


RULE 4: THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities.

As a coach, I usually don’t know what my clients are going to bring to our meetings. This reality was tough for me in the beginning. I’m a planner, dammit! And there was nothing I could do to prepare for a client meeting. Although I had knowledge and experience, I couldn’t anticipate what precisely would be needed.

I quickly learned to get out of my own head by focusing on the client — and this has kept me from editing and second-guessing the coaching process. If I think things need to go a certain way, I could miss the right opportunities. Improvised Living pushes me to stay present, agile and trust my instincts. Not only is this fun and freeing for me, it’s actually the sweet spot where transformation happens for clients.


Coach Tina and I are asking you to consider doing the exact opposite of what you normally do. Remember how it worked for George Costanza?

Seriously though, imagine your relationships, workplace and your world if everyone said YES more often.

If things aren’t going the way you’d like, try these magic words and see what happens.



For some solid proof, take a listen to the Magic Words episode of the podcast, This American Life. In act two (at the 27-minute mark), you’ll witness a couple successfully using improv to communicate with a loved one who has dementia.

Check out Improvised Life: A laboratory of found ideas from art, design, food and technology about living improvisationally and creatively. You can sign up for the Improvised Life email for a daily dose of inspiration.motivational tattoos

Speaking of inspiration, look at these COOL temporary, motivational tattoos!!

And finally, I love this recent blog by Martha Beck: The Storm Before The Calm. Especially this:

We forget that to give us more than we currently have, life must make us more than we currently are. And that the first act of every creative change is the destruction of the existing order. Make no mistake: when we ask for better lives, we are calling the whirlwind.

See you in the whirlwind —


Come Thirsty. Leave Fulfilled.


This entry was posted in Change, Creativity, Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.