Trideco's Real Play Technique

If there is one thing in a work shop that can get an immediate response from a group, it’s the trainer introducing a role play exercise. Unfortunately the response is usually a heartfelt groan or other manifestations of the fight and flight mechanism; “I think I have to attend and urgent meeting.” “ I am experiencing a sudden and blinding migraine” etc. So what is it about this learning technique that carries with it such stigma?

Classic reason for why role play is unwelcome:

Having asked a number of groups over the years why they despise role play in training the most frequent answers include:

  • It’s not real, it’s plastic so I am not really learning anything
  • I don’t like having to act in front of an audience
  • I don’t like to feel stupid

And that is why we use a technique called Real Play TM rather than role play.

So what makes real play different?

This technique was inspired by impromptu theatre techniques that I was exposed to in Drama School and that the whole world has been exposed to by theater productions such as “Theater Sports” and TV shows such as “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” The critical learning here is that it is more important to react that to act, to respond in the moment to the stimulus received and let the action unravel in an unscripted manner.

It starts with the delegates or participants not ever having to “act”. In fact a central component of Trideco’s Real Play Technique is that it is imperative for the Learner to participate in the Real play as themselves. So the classic scenario of “James, you are going to be the consultant and Fred you will be an angry client” now shifts to “James you are you in the situation dealing with an angry client while performing your role as a consultant”.

The next component is, unless we have had the opportunity to design case studies based on real situations that the group has experienced, the participants describe their own situation or events  from their real working environment and this sets the scene. With the aid of planners, the delegates describe the situation, the contributing events and the point at which the action (related to the skill set they are about to practice) begins.

Lastly, the trainer becomes the “actor” in situation and takes time to find out about the “character” they are playing and contrives to make the action unfold in as realistic a manner as possible. (“Contrived realism” who’d have thunk!) In our experience, the benefit is that the trainer is able to ensure that the role play doesn’t just become a laugh fest or a chaotic game of “make it impossible”. In this situation, we would identify behaviours and characteristics likely to emerge in the situation, based on what the participant has told us, and we then respond accordingly. We can also bring in triggers in order to create real opportunities for the person to practice the new behavioural skill and test them against some of the classic triggers that have historically hooked them.

In order to facilitate drama exercises or real-plays there are some essential skills that the facilitator must be able to exhibit:

  • Draw out information that can be translated into behaviour
  • Display different body language and types in order to create different realities
  • Assume different behaviour identities through the use of body language, vocal range, and response behaviours.
  • Judge appropriate responses of a particular character to input given by an individual.
  • Must be able to use probing questions to heighten people’s insight about their own behaviour.
  • Must be able to judge when to back off if the real-play is getting too emotional
  • Must be able to give insightful and accurate feedback.

When an interaction has been unsuccessful the individual and the group have the opportunity to dissemble the behaviours and suggest where a different choice could have been made.

The individual is now able to approach interactions strategically with a broader set of behavioural responses.

The difference between these experiential workshops and psychodrama is that the ‘protagonist’ plays him/herself in order to realistically acquire new behaviours which increases the likelihood of success in a number of situations. The Ideal behaviours identified determine the constraints from which the person doing the real-play can choose their responses. The real-play is a rehearsal opportunity and the individual is required to think on their feet and put their point across using the range of ideal behaviours that the group has identified.

Change begins with the self.

In her book “The Dance of Anger”, Harriet Lerner points out that we are unable to change the behaviours of others and that  if we want to create change in our interactions we must change our own behaviour. In this way we no longer enter into the dance of old interactions. Usually the person with whom we are interacting will attempt to create a “Change Back”. In other words they will intensify the stimulus that gives them the response that they are used to. Only by choosing to alter our behaviour over time will we draw the other into a more successful dance.

Our technique allow individuals the opportunity to recognise stimuli that draw them into old dances, and also gives them a chance to practice what to say and what to do to avoid being drawn back in. In this way the outcome that they have identified i.e. “what do I want” becomes the focus of the interaction, not the other person and their behaviour. By focusing on “what I want”, the individual learns not to be sidetracked and chooses behaviours that will allow them to succeed in achieving their goals.

The power that every person has is the power to change themselves. Through Real Play  we allow individuals to access this power and practice its impact.

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