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Get REAL! Role-Play That Creates Actual Change


Mon Jun 08 2020

Get REAL! Role-Play That Creates Actual Change

Many leaders in the interpersonal communication industry agree our biggest learning gap is practice. We have myriad fantastic communication programs and educational offerings designed to improve our communication skills and better our lives, but we still struggle to find meaningful ways for learners to practice those skills and deeply incorporate them into their languages and ways of being.

Simulation or structured roleplay is a practice tool that can propel learners into authentically integrating new skills and creating breakthrough results. However, roleplay often takes a backseat to instruction and is awarded the least amount of our time and resources. Learning professionals face participant resistance and discomfort, sessions are poorly structured, and roleplay rarely lives up to its tremendous potential as a way to practice and master new skills. JSL Creative Learning and JSL Heathcare Communications offer much deeper, dynamic, and effective versions of this simulation technique using the REAL methodology, which helps take roleplay from “going through the motions” to a time of self-discovery and transformation.


JSL facilitators like myself and my colleague Su Niedringhaus have honed this art as long-time communication faculty members for the Colorado Permanente Medical Group. Physicians and other healthcare workers often face challenging conversations with patients, from sharing troubling diagnoses to cost conversations to motivational interviewing to end-of-life discussions. While their training may have included a few “standardized patients,” often as practices develop the need to improve communication skills becomes apparent. And these skills just can't be learned from a book. Providers need a place to practice REAL encounters to work on their communication skills, discover unproductive habits, and try out new behaviors.

Building on the success of our ATD 2019 conference session, Su and I were planning to lead healthcare professionals, coaches, and trainers through an entertaining and game-changing session at ATD 2020 full of demonstrations, discussion, and practice. Since the Association for Talent Development’s 2020 International Conference & Exhibition changed to a virtual conference, JSL will now offer a complimentary 45-minute webinar featuring REAL roleplay structures, “rules,” coaching techniques, and feedback formats designed to deepen a learner's investment/engagement.

Techniques can be applied in different formats including peer to peer roleplays, coached roleplays, roleplays with colleague feedback, and by designated “actors” in a small group setting. Additional information will be given on how to extend the learning beyond the roleplay through peer practice using a buddy system, providing scenarios for further practice, coaching follow-up, and shadowing. In this way, trainers can build a truly robust roleplay offering that gets real, ongoing results.

Though seen through the lens of healthcare, these techniques can be used anywhere conversation is core to business success. As a teaching tool, roleplay is only beneficial when it is realistic, engaging, aligned learning. That's the difference of the REAL methodology.

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