Role playing has been used as a learning tool in life coaching for an extremely long time. It is a tool many of us use in life. When we look into the future (in a hypothetical scenario), we are taking part in a role play of some sort. We are envisaging ourselves in an imaginary situation where, though we cannot govern the end point, we can foresee some or all of the conditions and ‘rehearse’ our performance to influence the outcome. Most of the time we are better for it.
In a learning situation, role playing can be a very adaptable and effective tool. The belief of ‘I hear and I don’t remember, I see and I don’t forget, I do and I comprehend is very applicable here. In life coaching, role playing is often used as a way of:
- Making sense of the theory, and
- Gathering together concepts into a practical experience.
And yet, it often goes wrong. If not used well in a life coaching and training environment the role play tool cannot be effective and sometimes even harmful. One of the main complicating factors about role play is the mindset or emotional state of the people taking part. Many people are anxious, even terrified, at the likelihood of participating in a role play, and this is unsurprising given some people’s unfortunate role play experiences.
Role play is an experience around a specific situation that contains two or more different viewpoints or perspectives. Here are some strategies to ponder on about when planning your role play for your next life coaching session.
4 Benefits to role playing
Coaching in a life-like situation (such as role playing) can provide the following benefits.
Increases efficient problem solving
Normally, in role playing, the life coach creates the most outlandish situations possible – the ones that could pose problems for the employee. In that controlled environment, when clients successfully complete the tasks, they leave with abilities learned that can help them achieve an appropriate response. One of the top abilities is creative decision-making.
Improves social skills
Since clients face life-like situations, they develop skills that are necessary to communicate their way out of it. We are definitely social beings, and having skills such as that can help.
Inspires unwavering confidence
Being in a pressured environment can be overwhelming at times. However, we get comfortable with challenges when we face them more than once and when we practise appropriate interventions. Our brains form a particular pathway to tackle them, whether big or small.
Helps to manage a tricky situation
Have you ever felt panic? That must have been in a situation where you couldn’t find a way out. And that may have been because you couldn’t deal with the situation properly. Panic ruins the possibility of thinking of a solution. Role playing can help a person stay calm in the face of adversity. When they feel they have the tools to deal with a particular situation, they calm their brains and think of solutions.
Setting your role playing aims
- Be very distinct about what you want people to gain from the role playing situation. Muddy thinking from the beginning will end up in muddy outcomes. Thinking clearly and preparing well for the role play result in outcomes which are clear.
- Are you evaluating skills or are you growing them? If you are evaluating people, they need to be aware of the competency level you expect from them. Your brief needs to have outcomes that are measurable. Participants in the role play also need to trust that it challenge them and their peers equally. Don’t put them through an assessment role play until you know that they have reached a specific standard (through development activities and role play).
- Are you giving everyone the same test or are you adapting each challenges according to the level of skill demonstrated by each person? The former is recommended for assessment while the latter is for development.
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