Psychological Self-Help

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couple of hours and, finally, try out your wings (another two or three
Common problems
Most of us are reluctant to openly expose our weaknesses, so we
avoid role-playing, as discussed above. Likewise, helpers are often
reluctant to tell us our weaknesses, especially things like "your
handshake is weak," "your voice is shaky," "your grammar is poor,"
"you need to brush your teeth," etc. Yet, honesty is important. Finally,
some of us reject frank feedback about our weaknesses. That, of
course, defeats the purpose of role-playing. 
Effectiveness, advantages, and dangers
There is no doubt that role-playing is a direct, effective route to
new behavior. It can be carried out with a friend or alone. With just a
little imagination, a variety of circumstances can be created in our
minds, and then we can practice handling the situations. It works
better with another person, however. It is a safe way to reduce our
social anxieties. The feedback from a friend or an expert helps us see
ourselves realistically. The emphasis on practical skills and success
makes it a positive experience, although stressful at times. There is no
known danger. 
Case illustration
In a small mutual-helping group of college students, Harley talked
about his difficulty getting a date. He said he was "scared to death of
women." Yet, he was a senior, bright, tall, just a little over weight,
good-looking, and seemed confident. The only indication of a problem
in the group was his seriousness, formal language and big words. In
fact, his part of a conversation sounded like a short lecture. The other
students encouraged Harley to role-play asking for a date over the
phone. It was scary, but he agreed. First, he pretended to call a girl in
the group. He hardly introduced himself, then blurted out "would you
go out with me?" The other students gave him several suggestions:
take more time, make it clear who you are and say more about
yourself, ask the girl questions, suggest something specific and fun to
do on the date and so on. He got better as he practiced over and over. 
Casual conversation was hard for Harley. Other men in the group
showed him how they would ask for a date. He pretended to call
several different girls a total of 10 or 12 times, then the group
suggested he try it in real life. He did and reported back to the group
that all three women had rejected him. The group asked lots of
questions about what he said and who he called. They gave more
suggestions, especially about selecting a person to call, and asked him
to try again. He did and this time he was successful. He and the date
had a fairly good time, but he told the group that he realized there
were lots of skills he still had to master beyond getting a date. The
group felt good about helping Harley and he felt he was "on his way." 
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