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Role Play, a Powerful Coaching Tool

By Atip Muangsuwan

What is a role play? What are the benefits of it in coaching?

Role play is a technique used in human relations training and psychotherapy in which participants act out various social roles in dramatic situations. Originally developed in psychodrama, role play is now widely used in industrial, educational, and clinical settings for purposes such as teaching employees to handle sales problems, helping change attitudes and relationships among couples or family members, and rehearsing different ways of coping with stresses and conflicts. (APA Dictionary of Psychology)

For me as a coach, I’ve applied a role-play technique into my coaching sessions and conversations. Because I’ve seen many benefits of using it in my coaching.

For instance, I had a CEO client who had a problem of “friends borrowing money and never return it”. The CEO didn’t have the guts to say no to his friends so he had to suffer from this problem again and again for a very long time.

The CEO decided to bring his suffering to discuss with me in one of our coaching sessions with the hope that we could come up with the solution to this problem.

After checking in with the CEO for a short while, I asked whether he wanted to do a role play with me for this situation. The CEO said, “Of course.”

I told him that I would act as one of his best friends coming to see him to borrow some amount of his money.

Then, I started the role play with him by using some made-up scripts out of the air.

Surprisingly, the CEO was able to reject his best friend’s request for money with confidence and with good justification. The CEO told me that he never thought he could possibly do this without feeling bad or feeling uncomfortable. But he could now.

So, I asked him… “If in the future some of your friends come asking to borrow your money, how confident are you going to say no to them without feeling bad just like in the role play?” 

The CEO replied, “A lot more confident than before!”

So, what makes ‘role play’ helpful in coaching is… it helps prepare clients for the upcoming situations, events, incidents, challenges and so on more effectively and efficiently.

‘Role Play’ is just like… a flight simulator which helps prepare you for the real flights! That’s why role play is such a powerful coaching tool that I often apply in my coaching sessions.