kind of practice and feedback. Several methods discussed in this
chapter utilize role-playing to acquire other skills. General suggestions
about role-playing will be given here and not repeated with each
Role-playing should not be confused with deception, being a
phony, presenting a false front, impression management, conning
someone, putting your best foot forward, etc. Role-playing is learning
how to best handle a situation, usually that is honestly, skillfully
and as you really are. We all must learn these skills by doing, by
practicing new social skills over and over. Of course, some us require
more practice than others.
To figure out exactly what to say--when meeting a special
person, when interviewing for a job, when asking parents for
permission to do something, when asking the boss for a raise,
To gain general social skills--how to initiate conversations at a
party, how to tell interesting stories, how to terminate
conversations, how to express opinions about social issues, etc.
To build self-confidence while interacting, reduce anxiety, etc.
STEP ONE: Overcome your reluctance, if any, to role-play.
Most people are hesitant to role-play. It exposes our weaknesses;
it requires us to confront unpleasant situations; it puts us to repeated
tests and that's embarrassing. Consequently, we are likely to come up
with lots of excuses to avoid role-playing: It isn't real, so how can you
learn anything? I feel so silly; this can't do me any good. Of course,
learning a new way of interacting isn't "natural," it is stressful. But it
needs to be done--and the new skills will become comfortable and part
of the real you.
There are things you can do to help you get started: (1) Select a
fairly easy situation to start with and prepare well before inviting a
friend to work with you. (2) Role-play by yourself before working with
others. Practice out loud and record your comments. Then listen to
yourself and note your skills, don't tell yourself how awful it sounds,
look for the good specific points--nice voice, loud enough, good
grammar, cheerful, etc. Later, you can look for specific ways to
improve your responses. (3) Use desensitization to reduce the fears
associated with role-playing (see method #6 in chapter 12). (4) Some
people find it easier if they pretend to be someone else--a successful
person, a movie star, a smooth-operating friend or a psychologist who
is helping shy people. (5) Occasionally, it is helpful to begin by goofing
around and exaggerating your weaknesses, e.g. act out all the terribly
embarrassing dumb mistakes you could possibly make. This can
"break the ice."