Say Something Nice

By Brian Remer

There's a game that's used by improv actors to boost creativity and by organizational trainers to promote cooperation and positivity. It's called "Yes And." One person makes a statement like, "Let's go to the park." Typically, this might be a time when someone throws out an idea-killing response such as, "Yes, but it's too far to walk."

Instead, the next player adds to the idea by saying something like, "Yes, and we could also bring some snacks." Players continue taking turns making statements that build on each other by beginning with "Yes, and." This improv game is a great way to increase oxytocin among group members. You can feel the mood lighten.

The following activity, "Say Something Nice," is meant to give players practice in boosting their own oxytocin level by turning another person's negative statement into something positive. However, instead of beginning each statement with, "Yes, and," we ask players to begin with the negative, "Yes But."


To increase one's oxytocin level by looking for and finding something positive in various situations


A list of negative statements printed on individual cards


Any number working in groups of up to five


15 - 20 minutes


Begin by reminding people of the way that hearing one negative statement can lead us into a downward spiral of more negative thinking. Explain that this can be especially insidious because cortisol, the hormone that triggers our defensive responses, stays in our system for 10 to 20 times longer than oxytocin, the hormone that makes us feel calm and optimistic.

Let people know that this game can give people practice in looking for something positive among the negativity that others are projecting.

Ask people to form groups of as many as five people. Give each group a set of cards with negative statements. On their turn, each player draws a card and reads the negative statement on it. Each of the other players in the group takes a turn making a positive statement in response. Statements must begin with, "Yes, but."

The player who read the negative statement is the judge who decides which player's statement was most positive. That player receives one point.


Negative Statement: "It's going to be rainy and dreary all week."

Positive Response: "Yes, but I'm looking forward to curling up with some books I've been meaning to read." Or, "Yes, but the roses in my garden will be so excited." (This second statement would be judged to be more creative.)

You can write your own negative statements or have people write them before you begin the game. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. It's going to be rainy and dreary all week.
  2. Our team is in its longest losing streak.
  3. I'm tired of eating broccoli salad again.
  4. Joan is always late for our meeting.
  5. Phil talks way too much.
  6. There are no holidays between September 6 and November 23.
  7. My car is going to be in the shop for at least ten days.
  8. At this rate we are going to miss our deadline and lose the contract.
  9. Our project is going to die fast with this change of scope.
  10. The director just asked me to re-write my report by tomorrow.


  • Which negative statements proved most difficult to turn into something positive?
  • As you played the game, to what degree did it become easier to think of positive statements?
  • How did the mood of your group change as you played?
  • How practical would it be to invent positive statements in your daily life?
  • What are some situations when you would not want to respond to a negative with a positive statement?
  • What strategy might you use to remember to use this method of raising your own level of oxytocin?