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Building confidence in using online forums
Building confidence in using online forums

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7 Keeping the conversation moving forward

‘Yes, and …’ is a common feature of improvisation in the theatre. Performers use it to make sure the scene keeps moving forward. By saying ‘yes’ you are acknowledging what the other person has said and the ‘and’ moves it forward. This means that the possibilities of the conversation are kept open to be played with and built on.

You can explore this now in the next activity.

Activity 6 The possibilities of saying ‘Yes, and …’

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Read the conversation below between Alex, Sheena and Ali. Then answer the questions that follow.

I thought the article we were told to read this week is arguing that adding new houses to a small community always changes how people move around, changing the routes people take on foot and in cars.
Yes, that’s the key message I picked out too, Alex, and it made me think of my small town where the new estate has got a small play area in the middle which the kids from my area can now walk to safely as there is a new path.
Yes, I know somewhere where that’s happened. It’s meant that the new residents have met the parents of children living in the area next-door too!
No, but that wasn’t the main argument of the article. It was saying that even though it changes how people move around, new estates lead to new pollution issues. I don’t think a few people having extra walking routes makes up for the environmental damage.
  • Ali’s response to Alex and Sheena’s exchange didn’t use the ‘yes, and …’ technique. Instead she uses ‘no, but’. What effect does ‘no, but’ have on the conversation flow?
  • How could Ali have rephrased her response to keep the conversation open to further possibilities? Rewrite her response below to keep the conversation playful.
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Using the word ‘no’ or ‘but’ (or variations of them) blocks the conversation. It does this by setting up a feeling of right or wrong and stops a conversation from carrying on. Ali probably didn’t mean to do this. She was trying to join in. However, the words she used stopped the conversation feeling playful, exploring possibilities and keeping everyone in the conversation actively engaged. This doesn’t mean she can’t express her opinion that the main argument of the article is the pollution, but this can be brought into the conversation as an ‘and’ rather than a ‘but’.

For example, Ali’s response could be rewritten as follows.

The movement of people is a really interesting point. I hadn’t seen this as the main point but your examples have made me think more about that aspect of the article. I’ve been thinking more about the pollution angle and how new estates create new pollution issues. It’s interesting that there is a positive environmental aspect (more walking, paths, outdoor play opportunities) and a negative environmental aspect (more rubbish, more traffic). Were these issues in your experiences?

This type of response, although not using the words ‘yes, and …’, acknowledges the previous responses (‘yes’) and then builds from these, linking into her own perspective and maintaining the openness of the possibilities for the conversation to move forward.

Very importantly, by finishing with a question, Ali now deliberately opens the door for a continuation and development of the conversation.

In the next section, you will look at the importance of being aware of your audience when writing on online learning forums.