Years ago, Kerri and I ran a training on interviewing. One of the activities we had the participants do was a role play, where they broke into teams with some of them acting as interviewers and others being interviewed. In order to keep the element of surprise, we didn’t let them know in advance we would be doing the activity but chose to wait until right before it was time to start.
After the training, I got a call from one of the participants, letting me know how stressful they found the experience. I think they wanted to convince me the activity was a bad one and nothing we should do again.
While I feel bad (to this very day) that it was upsetting to anyone, I remain firmly convinced that role playing is absolutely crucial when learning new skills or preparing for a stressful event.
- Without actually replicating the conditions one will experience, you can’t accurately predict how one will react. It’s easy to say what you think you will do, but let’s turn the heat up and see what actually happens.
- Learning to manage the stress of the event is just as important as the skills you will enlist. In unusual or difficult situations, we are likely to enter fight, flight or freeze. Role playing gives us a better idea which one will happen and allows us to identify and share the right tools.
- Practice builds confidence. This is particularly true when it comes to having conversations or saying things that don’t (yet) feel natural to you. Speaking the words you think you want to say, having the space to adjust and editing until they feel natural will allow you to enter a situation knowing you can handle it. It’s really muscle memory at its finest.
Recently, a client we have been working with for a while let us know they were doing some coaching in their organization and naturally fell into doing a role play. They shared how scary they thought it was when we first started working with them, but how easy it came after much practice. Both Kerri and I were delighted they had become convinced of the value of this technique.
If you find yourself in a training with us, don’t be surprised if we do some role playing. We know it’s the best way to get you ready for center stage and we consider it our solemn duty to help make you a star.