The benefits of Role-Play in Training


Anyone who has ever delivered training and said to a group of delegates, “ok, we’ll now do some role-play scenarios”, will undoubtedly be familiar with the look of shock and horror coming back from at least some of the faces in the room at the very suggestion of such a thing.


So do we really need to be that afraid of role-playing? Not at all. If the whole notion of role-playing is properly introduced and expertly handled then it should be valuable, fun, informative and yes, of course, challenging too.


There is little doubt that some people do find the prospect of role-playing daunting though and it is our job as trainers to ensure that we remove as much stress from the process as possible. We can’t force anyone to do it (or at least it is wise not to try) as a willing participant is always a much better prospect than one who has been coerced.


We need to reassure anyone who is unduly worried that the training room is very much an environment where it is perfectly acceptable to ‘get it wrong’ without penalty, criticism or embarrassment. Much better to get it wrong here and learn from it than suffer a potentially uncomfortable situation making a serious error live in the moment.


Once the scene is set and you have prepared your group properly putting their minds at rest as much as possible then you can start.


At Maguire Training we found that using a third party such as a professional actor to help you with role-playing is much more preferable than using yourself or another delegate as the subject of, say, an appraisal interview.


This provides a significant benefit to the whole process as it allows for a higher degree of objectivity. Plus it removes the temptation for delegates to be mean to each other, or indeed, too easy on each other because they are next!


If it is at all possible, videoing your role-plays is also of great benefit. Delegates find it much easier to understand where they went wrong (and right) if they can actually see themselves doing it. Also, it’s easy to develop favourite words or phrases that we can be used incessantly with the person being cognisant of the fact and it can be quite revealing for delegates when they can see themselves in a video ending every sentence with ‘ok’ or ‘right’ for example.


Again, it always advisable to use scenarios in role-plays that are as close to the real world as possible. This will help to build confidence in situations that are familiar and they are less likely to be as intimidating when and if they do come across a certain situation. It will create a memory that they have come across this situation or something similar to it before, even if it was only in a role-play scenario, and they will be better prepared for it than they would have been by simply going into that challenge totally cold.


Overall the whole exercise is designed to help build the delegate’s confidence, skill and ability in handling a variety of situations back in the workplace. It will also undoubtedly help them with their general level of communication skills as well as providing an opportunity to explore areas such as non-verbal communication and use of language.


Although it does without doubt help improve levels of listening skills as well as influencing skills and problem solving, be warned that no one scenario or series of role-plays is a silver bullet as the one thing that none of us can account for is the ‘X’ factor or the ‘human’ factor. This is because we never really know how someone is going to react to any given situation in the real world – people are full of surprises!


All we can do is anticipate the various challenges and opportunities that we may face and practise, practise, practise as much as possible in a safe, controlled and positive environment. This will help your delegates, for example, be far better prepared for the unexpected than those who have not had the benefit of experiencing various problems and challenges that will come to test them, even if it was in what are, admittedly, somewhat contrived conditions.

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