No Excuse Zone: Play More

With just two words, we can turn an entire room of gainfully employed adults into huffing teenagers. A single phrase can illicit eye rolls, heavy sighs, crossed arms, and even the occasional stomping foot. Those two words? Role play.
We’ve heard every excuse out there to avoid role play: “It makes me uncomfortable.” “I don’t like speaking in front of crowds.” “I’m a bad actor.” “I feel so awkward when I role play.”
A lot of the time, the excuses drift into complaining—or even whining—territory: “This is dumb.” “I feel stupid up here.” “What’s the point—this isn’t helping.”
And it’s that last postulation that we can irrefutably repudiate—because it is helping.

How many times have you heard phrases like, “No pain, no gain,” or “No guts, no glory?” Heck, even philosopher Carl Jung said, ”There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” We admit that role play is uncomfortable, but it’s in that discomfort that we grow. It’s uncomfortable because the things you’re practicing—confronting lackadaisical employees or addressing customer questions to which you don’t have an answer—aren’t familiar to you; you already avoid them in real life. And that is why you’re practicing them in a safe space.

Role play is also uncomfortable because we’re opening ourselves up to criticism. When we practice behaviors that are novel to us in a role play scenario, we’re asking those around us or the person we’re practicing with to judge our behaviors. With the exception of a few enlightened beings, no one likes to be critiqued—but it’s through other people’s perspectives and judgements that we often grow.
We can tout the benefits of role play all day—in fact, that’s exactly what we do in our programs like Mann U—but we know it’s easy to disregard our words unless we present you with tangible examples of the effectiveness of role play.
Recently, Dan taught a group of managers at a bicycle retailer the importance of role play. As usual, his introduction of role play garnered a lot of sighing and subtle complaints. After a few rounds of role playing, as usual, the students leaned into the experience, and by the end of the course they were no longer hesitant or uncomfortable; they stepped into the role playing with confidence.
Because of the role playing, they were also able to step back onto the sales floor and into formerly uncomfortable real-life scenarios with confidence. The very next day, one of the managers was working with a client who was considering buying a $6,000 bike. That’s a big number, and a lot of retailers have trouble with the final step of such a transaction: asking for the sale. The customer began throwing out the normal excuses, but rather than buckle under them, the manager used the techniques he’d practiced the day before—and he closed the sale. Thanks to the role playing, he was able to make a huge sale.
It’s a success story we’re happy to hear often. Even the most staunch role play cynics will call us after a Mann U or GEAR session to tell us of the success of the very skills they were so scared to practice during role play.
You don’t need us there to guide you. Snag a co-worker on a lunch break and ask them to practice with you. The role playing may seem silly or uncomfortable at first, but you’d be surprised how much it can help you tackle the tasks and scenarios that you usually dread.

Stifle your sighs, reign in your eye rolls, and step on up. You’re not a teenager, you’re a capable adult, and you should know by now that it’s in these moments of discomfort that the magic happens.

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