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Creative Twist: Role-Playing those ‘Difficult People’


In the fifth of a series of quick and easy ways to add a creative “twist” to common L&D exercises, Andy Rankin looks at role plays.

Creating a useful learning experience using role plays is always an interesting challenge. Where budgets allow, it can be useful to employ professional actors to add a level of reality and expertise. However, there will also be additional resources available in the group to tap into. Here is an outline of a creative twist, using role play in a session dealing with that old chestnut “difficult people”.

Role Play Activity: The purpose is to give participants the opportunity to prepare and manage a conversation or interview with a “difficult person”.

Role Players: In this scenario the role players come from within the training group. Rather than asking people to play set characters, the participants will play their own difficult person. This then provides another participant the opportunity to deal with that particular character.

Step 1
Participants choose a difficult character that they have faced or will have to face in the near future.

Step 2
Participants write background information concerning the difficult person and how the situation has developed. They need to propose a topic for a role play meeting. They also suggest a symbol, image or adjective that sums up this character in one hit.

Step 3
The facilitator collates an overview description of all the characters onto a flip chart to compile a sort of beauty parade.

Step 4
Participants bid for a character to “play against” in the role plays that will follow. There will be some negotiation to get everyone paired up.

Step 5
Participants prepare for the interview using the background information from Step 2 and any models etc from the course.

Step 6
Participants role play the interview. This might be video taped and/or facilitated with observers for feedback and learning points.

NB The process is run enough times so that everyone gets the opportunity to play interviewer, interviewee and observer.

Individuals have to “get into the shoes” of their difficult person in order to play them. This gives unique insights into the character and encourages seeing other perspectives.
Participants get a pretty realistic role play character to practice their skills on.
Saves on professional actor fees.

About the author: Andy Rankin is a Director of Creative Metier Limited an executive mentoring consultancy. The business has developed an online interactive software tool that utilises creative processes to support people explore their long term future direction. This has applications for leadership and personal development, coaching/ mentoring support, restructuring and career transition scenarios.


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