• Rachel Wiles

Are you role-playing right?


Role-play is a brilliant tool for learning and development - the chance to practice and improve an unfamiliar situation can be invaluable. Sometimes practicing in the mirror doesn’t quite cut it, so instead, using role-play in a familiar setting, using relatable language and receiving constructive feedback could be a lot more beneficial.

When used correctly, there are loads of benefits to using role-play in a training environment:

  • It can significantly improve communication skills, specifically listening skills. As with any form of improvisation, you have to really listen to what your partner is saying (verbally and non-verbally) to be able to respond appropriately. It sounds simple but people rarely listen as completely as they do when role-playing.

  • It develops creative problem solving skills. During a role-play you’ll likely have no idea what’s going to happen next but to find sucess, you need to find a way of successfully overcoming any challenge thrown at you! You're therefore encouraged to think imaginatively and on the spot which is great practice for when you are faced with impromptu challenges in real life. (To read a bit more about the unexpected benefits of problem solving creatively read our blog: how creativity can give you the edge)

  • Lastly, it’s brilliant for confidence. Successfully overcoming obstacles can give a much-needed boost! Confidence often comes over time from experience, and role-play can fast-track you straight there. If there are soft-skills you could benefit from polishing, role-play presents an opportunity to practice, receive feedback and practice again.

But of course, when you mention role-play, people are often reminded of painful experiences standing up in front of their whole office. With the ‘audience’ feeling just as uncomfortable. This is literally helpful to no-one and simply impedes their confidence. So where are we going wrong? Here are three things you can do for a successful role-playing session:

  1. Create a safe environment: this is crucial, people do not feel safe or relaxed in front of a room full of peers staring at them (if anything, it brings back terrifying memories of school assemblies) so they won’t learn in this environment. Create a space in which they won’t be self-conscious: a good place to start is by reducing the size of the group. Try a role-play triangle, this involves two people in a role-play situation and the third observing. Then switch around. The results will be dramatically different.

2. Provide a realistic situation: creating a situation or characters to reflect your workplace builds authenticity. Having to suspend your disbelief might entertain the audience but it won’t reap much benefit for those role-playing. You already have familiar locations so try using situations which act as a mirror to your organisations culture and dynamic - it might take time to research and devise but it’ll be authentic and relatable. (If you can find a drama-based training provider to research and write the case studies for you, even better!) If you'd like some advice or examples of effective role-play scripts give us a shout.

3. Offer feedback: Effective feedback is essential to a successful role-play. People need to know what they have done well, what they could do better and (where possible) how. Role-play presents the perfect platform for receiving and implementing feedback. However it is important to consider how this feedback is delivered, who it’s delivered by (will Peer feedback be appropriate in this instance?) and what is done with the feedback.

Try these tips and see how you can use role-play more frequently and more successfully. It shouldn’t be a West End production but more of a coaching tool to identify and develop key skills. Think about how the role-players feel and make it comfortable for them and most importantly, have fun with it!

Different Duck offer a creative approach to training using professional actors and an experiential approach to bring theory to life. Our workshops include Equality & Diversity, Conflict Management, Customer Service and Maximising Impact. For more information on how our creative training can help your business, check out our website or get in touch on info@differentduck.co.uk

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