Kickstart Change--Using Role-Playing In Coaching


Role-playing is a useful coaching tool.  Here are some ways it can be used in a coaching session to help bring about meaningful change.

  1. Practice for an important conversation:  Rather than just stand in front of the mirror to practice for an interview, a talk with your parent about moving to a senior living facility, a conversation about marital problems, a discussion about differing political or religious views, and the like, role-playing with a coach provides valuable practice and feedback in order to improve your chances of having a successful discussion.  It provides you with a chance at a trial run with a real person who helps you learn how to better communicate your ideas in a non-judgmental setting.  It helps you learn about yourself and the individuals you plan to talk with.  This can provide you with an amazing opportunity for growth.  The practice you get while working with a coach as well as practice in between sessions by yourself or with a trusted friend can help make these important conversations much easier to tackle.

  2. Practice for any conversation:  Negotiating contracts, settling misunderstandings, prepping for a date or doctor’s appointment, confronting an annoying neighbor, talking with your child’s teacher about difficulties at school—problem-solving.  Practicing all sorts of conversations helps you hone your skills to be ready for anything that comes up.  The more situations you role-play, the better your conversations will be.  In coaching, of course, we focus on the most difficult and pressing ones, but we may also start out with a smaller problematic conversation that is either related or not to the bigger one to get your feet wet so to speak.  Ease into dealing with simpler conversations in order to make tackling the tougher ones perhaps a bit easier.

  3. Build confidence:  Role playing in coaching provides a safe place for you to practice conversations.  The more you practice various conversations, the more confidence you’ll gain to enter into any conversations you want and need to have.  Practice brings competence and competence can lead to confidence.  And, with confidence you can do anything, you can bring about meaningful change.

  4. Build listening skills:  An important part of role-playing is to listen to the other person.  Really listen.  Avoid cutting the other person off.  Give them time to speak—maybe even setting a timer for 2 minutes and silently paying attention to what that person has to say for the allotted time.  Then, it’s their turn to listen to you.  In addition, pay attention to body language, tone of voice, and non-verbal cues 

  5. Practice with real scenarios:  Stick to real life scenarios in role-playing to transform your conversations in a positive way.  Even starting with something as simple as your son not doing his regular chores, like taking out the trash or cleaning his room, without being told can help as a warm up to more difficult conversations better than starting with made-up scenarios that you can’t personally relate to.

  6. Practice, then try it for real:  Nothing is a better agent for change than the real thing.  We will practice real scenarios, but the real test is taking what you have learned from role-playing and applying it to those real-life conversations to bring about meaningful change.  It might take one role-play session or several or many before you are ready to tackle your real-life conversations.  Or, you may prefer to role play a step and complete it in real life before the next session, then practice the next step in the process and complete that step, and so on, toward the ultimate meaningful change.   

  7. Try it for real, then revise where needed:  When you use what you learn in a coaching session role play activity, in real life, it gives you a chance to find out what works and what doesn’t.  Then, you can come back to coaching, and use the session to regroup and revise your strategy.  Then, go back and attempt the real-life conversation again.  Regroup, revise, re-try, repeat for as many times as is needed to truly connect with the other person and have a successful conversation. 

  8. Practice your weak areas:  Sometimes there is no need to go through an entire conversation scenario in role-play.  If your difficulty is with asking questions, we’ll practice asking questions.  If it’s maintaining eye contact, we’ll practice that.  If it’s feeling intimidated, we’ll work on that. 

  9. Get comfortable with discomfort:  Now, I’m not suggesting that coaching through role-play will make you miserable.  I’m not trying to make you miserable.  I’m talking discomfort here.  Getting out of your comfort zone so you can get real.  Growth comes from discomfort.  Having those uncomfortable conversations via role-play and then for real can help you grow personally and professionally.  Valuable change, meaningful change comes from being real with yourself, talking about those uncomfortable topics, digging deep to uncover your authentic self and be you, and discover the life you truly want to live, and live it.

  10. Role-play Process:  Role-play is focused on a specific outcome, it's brief (about 15 minutes), so we'll work together to choose a real-life scenario that is particularly challenging for your in order to gain practice and confidence in your ability to do it for real outside the coaching session.  It is important to set goals and objectives for the role-play exercise and the outcome of the exercise, yet it is flexible. It promotes thinking in the moment.  We'll go in the direction that feels most beneficial to resolving the challenging situation.  Following the role-play scenario, we'll review it, look for insights,lessons, pros and cons, thoughts, feelings, and the next action step to take in the process of meaningful change.

  11. Alternative Role-play Process:  As I said, the role-play process is flexible.  You can choose to utilize performing arts to explore and resolve a challenging situation in your life.  Do a one-person show.  Do a monologne as yourself voicing your thoughts and feelings regarding the situation you are struggling with, or as a person you are trying to understand--to gain a new perspective, new insights, clarity, meaningful change.