should play the role as realistically as possible. If you have no helper,
you can simply practice in fantasy. This is quite effective (Gambrill &
Richey, 1985) if your imagination is detailed and realistic.
Start with easy-to-handle situations and work up to more
challenging ones. For instance, it may be easier for you to introduce
yourself to someone your age and sex, than to someone older or of
the opposite sex. So, first pretend walking up to a person your age
and sex who is alone and looks like he/she may need help. Then
practice more difficult situations: meeting an older person working in a
bank, approaching an attractive person of the opposite sex at a party,
etc. If you are practicing asking for a raise, first practice with an
understanding, gentle boss, later with a gruff, nasty boss. The idea is
to have some success experience and to build your confidence. Even
when role-playing very difficult situations, your partner should not give
you an unnecessary "hard time." We need reinforcement.
Use the ideas developed in step 2 and practice each scene over
and over, maybe 5 to 10 times, improving your comments until you
are comfortable and satisfied. Then practice handling a more difficult
situation. Have your helper respond in a variety of ways, such as
eagerly accepting your invitation, hesitantly considering it, postponing
deciding and sharply rejecting your proposal, so you have practice
coping with many different real-life interactions.
After a few attempts to handle a specific situation, get feedback
from your helper and evaluate your own performance. Attend to what
you did well and to your mistakes. Make a mental or written list of the
things you need to improve. Be constructive, always looking for
specific behaviors or comments that would improve your effectiveness.
Don't move on to a more difficult situation or quit until you feel good
about your performance.
Feedback from your friend is especially valuable if: (1) it is very
specific, e.g. "you looked nervous" doesn't tell us much that is useful.
On the other hand, "you didn't smile, your lips were tight and you
never looked at me" makes it very clear what you need to practice.
Likewise, "you turned me off" or "I felt threatened by you" is specific
feedback (in terms of the helper's reaction but not the cause). It is
crucial that he/she identify your specific behaviors that produced those
responses, so you can try something different. (2) Generous praise
should be mixed with constructive suggestions. No blame or criticism
is needed. (3) The focus should be on how to improve. The
suggestions must be do-able (with practice); we must accept our
Valuable feedback can also be gotten from recording your practice
via audio or video. Check out your overall manner of speaking. Note
your good points as well as weaknesses. Do you speak loudly and
clearly? Do you have good inflection or is your voice flat? Do you
sound nervous and hesitant or calm and prepared? Do you look at the
other person? Does your body language convey interest and positive