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How to Get Your Participants Into The Act
by Andrew E. Schwartz

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Role-playing takes place when one person assumes a role he/she does not have in real life while interacting with another role-player to illustrate a human relations problem. It is a classic example of "putting oneself in someone else's shoes."

Role-playing is one of the most effective techniques for demonstrating the fundamental aspects of human interaction. It enables participants in a session to increase their awareness of the critical role that perceptions, feelings and emotions play in their work, and the ways in which these very subjective aspects determine what we do and how we relate to those around us. Personnel trained through role-playing in human relations, conflict resolution and crisis intervention can make a crucial difference defusing a hostile situation or a direct confrontation.

Although role-playing is an excellent technique, it is also the most difficult and potentially hazardous to master. It is very close to psychodrama, a technique used by therapists, and can lead to personal and professional damage if it is mishandled. To prevent this the presentor should know exactly what lesson is being demonstrated by role-play and structure the scenario in such a way as to increase the likelihood that the point will be made - without damaging the people involved.

The presentor should keep in mind that role-playing can be an extremely threatening experience for the participants. The very nature of role-playing requires requires a performance in job related simulations in front of peers, employees and sometimes supervisors. The potential for embarrassment is enormous. It is the presentor's responsibility to use role-play technique responsibly and with great care.

Because it is so risky to the participants, particularly in an employment situation, role-play should not be used at the initiation of a program. Activities and exercises which build rapport and trust are prerequisites for this form of activity. This precaution reduces fear and usually helps make the role more effective.


Andrew E. Schwartz, CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates of Boston, MA a comprehensive management training and professional development organization offering over 40 skills specific programs and practical solutions to today's business challenges.

Copyright, AE Schwartz & Associates. All rights reserved.
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