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The Benefits of Role-Play

by | September 22, 2020

As a professional actor I’ve been involved in role-play for many years. It’s a process whereby you can practise a real-life challenging conversation in a completely safe and confidential environment, receive coaching and feedback from your colleagues, then try the conversation again in many different ways. It’s quite unique, as assuming I’ve captured the personality and mindset of the other individual, I’ll be giving you feedback from their perspective, which means you will have an armoury of insights at your disposal to allow you to make more informed choices about your approach moving forward.

What I enjoy most is watching the turning point, the lightbulb moment where things suddenly start to go right, and the conversation improves. It may be a simple change in tack or a more seismic shift in behaviour but once the role-play stars are aligned I love the buzz of knowing you’re now much more equipped to have a successful, productive conversation with this person in real life .

I know some participants approach ‘role-play’ with some trepidation, perhaps due to previous awkward experiences of being forced to role-play with colleagues. Once the process is clear and they realise it’s a completely safe and confidential environment in which to try different approaches to the same challenging conversation, they quickly realise the value of the exercise. Body language, tone of voice, choice of words, eye contact, active listening… role-play is an extremely effective learning tool for really fine tuning the practical execution of all aspects of communication. Being made aware of how to make a small change to any of these things can sometimes make a huge impact.

Obviously, virtual training has taken the place of face to face interaction for a while, and if anything, the role-play process now feels more personal as a result. You can be sitting in the comfort of your own home rather than an anonymous training room, and while you have your conversation with me the rest of the group can magically disappear at the click of a button, before you invite them back to hear their feedback.

I’m always impressed with how participants throw themselves into the process when they’re in the “hotseat”. Many say it’s an invaluable experience which they can take forward and apply in real life. I’m always delighted when I hear that talking to me was “just like talking to X!” My only regret is not being able to be a fly on the wall afterwards to observe the “real” conversation with X!

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