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How to Use Role Playing Effectively

Role playing happens when two or more individuals explore a specific situation by acting out roles. It comes in handy especially when preparing for difficult or new situations. This could be presentations, interviews, sales meetings or conflict resolution meetings. Acting out such scenarios allows you to build confidence and experience for dealing with the real-life situation. You will be able to act instinctively and quickly, thus staying in control of the situation.  

Here are some guidelines for conducting a successful role playing session:

1. Define the situation

The first step in setting up a role playing session is to identify the situation. Gather your team members together and mention the problem. For instance, the issue could be making an effective sales pitch. Have a candid discussion to explore the different aspects of the problem. If you are dealing with people who don’t know each other very well, you could start with some ice breaking activities.

2. Set up the scene

After identifying the problem, you need to set up a scene which appears as ‘real’ as possible. This could involve finding a location which looks similar to the real life scene. Where appropriate, you could also consider using costumes and props. This will make it easier for your people to get into character.

3. Assign roles

Once the scene is set, decide which fictional characters you want in the role play. For instance, if you want to act out a customer service situation, you could have some people act as angry clients and others as customer care agents. Allocate these roles to different people and ask them to internalize the characters of the people they are representing. They need to understand their feelings, motivations, goals and perspectives.

4. Act it out

Get the characters together and ask them to act out their roles. Take time to explore as many scenarios as possible. For example, in one scenario, the customer could be cooperative and polite. In another, they could be difficult and hostile. Ask participants to try out different strategies for dealing with the situation.

5. Discuss the lessons

At the end of the role playing session, take time to discuss the lessons learned. This will give participants a chance to derive benefit from the experience. For instance, if the role play was about handling customers, ask your team members how they can improve their customer support skills. Conclusions and observations can be shared verbally or through written summaries.

At times, people feel anxious or threatened when asked to take part in role playing. They might feel like they are being put on the spot. To make the exercise less threatening, you could consider beginning with a brief demonstration. Choose two outgoing people, give them a scenario and ask them to act it out in front of the others. Where possible, take part in the demonstration yourself. This will make people relax and be more willing to participate.

Another way of helping people relax is by allowing them to direct the acting themselves. Let them pick out the characters and suggest the different scenarios that should be explored.

Although it can seem strange at first roleplaying is a great tool for helping to increase workplace productivity. It can also help to fix any issues that co-workers may have between them. Give it a try and see if it works for you.


image: iStock

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