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Why use Professional Actors trained in Business Role Play for your training?

Jocelyn Broderick

“You can’t change other people. You can only change yourself.”
Lorraine Bracco, On the Couch

I was at the Airport last week, on my way to do some Business Role Play in Durban, engaging in one of my favourite past times: watching the people walking past – seeing how they walked and talked; their idiosyncrasies; their ways of chatting to one another, their manner of being in the world.

I love that. It fascinates me and it’s how, as an actor, I have learned to become other characters over the years. We actors have that ability to become someone else. And for others this metamorphosis is so real that they suspend disbelief and go along with us for that journey.

I think, as actors, it’s something we do instinctively – always preparing for another potential role; always seeing different ways in which people communicate or shut themselves off from one another. Well, this ability becomes involuntary to us – while we are watching and absorbing and learning, we continue with our normal lives and meetings and interactions. I might be having another conversation that I’m completely immersed in, and I mean, completely immersed in, but I am always aware of how other people are in the world and noticing what they are not saying or telling me at the same time. For an actor, observing while doing something else becomes like the act of breathing to other people. I think it’s this ability to observe and then absorb these elements into ourselves that make a good actor, and even more importantly, a good Role Player.

Role Play is about BEING – responding to exactly what is given while being totally immersed in the situation – actually being that person in the moment. In Role Play there is no place for inauthenticity. A good Role Player makes the situation so real that the delegate completely forgets that they are Role Playing – so real that they might even start calling the Role Player by the actual name of a person they are experiencing conflict with. Role Playing is about total authenticity.

So why are the words “Role Play” usually met with the rolling of eyes and resistance by delegates? In business, people are often called upon to do role plays with each other. But can they sustain a ‘character’ and keep the interaction real? Many in the training arena would say yes. I would say ‘No”.

These colleague to colleague role plays are usually superficial. Why? Because delegates PLAY the role! They have not been trained to immerse themselves completely. Actors can. A professional Role Player will steer the situation right back on track and immerse the delegate in the situation causing them to respond authentically and learn.

Add to this, the Role Player also needs to be able to step out of the role and talk to the delegate about their impact. They open the delegate up to a deep discovery of self, to recognizing their default behaviours, and how they show up in the workplace. Delegates discover the difference between their intention, their perceived impact, and most importantly, their actual impact. The most common words used by delegates to this deep interactive form of learning is “life-changing.”