Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The problem with role playing

Much of training begins with some sort of lie - role playing and case-based learning both begin by asking people to pretend that they are in a situation that is significantly different than the training room. This has definite advantages - all stories have definite advantages. It also has definite drawbacks.

Many people will admit that they are more likely to tell the truth than lie because it is so much easier to keep track of the truth: when you begin to tell lies, it gives you much more information to track. You have to remember all the hypothetical context that you created when you created the original lie. Life gets complicated.

So what happens to students when we ask them to pretend to be someone they are not doing something that they are not really doing? We not only give them the task for which they are training, but the much more complicated task of pretending - of tracking all the information associated with a hypothetical situation. We give them the same problem that lies create - the problem that ideas are inevitably less rich and complicated than real life. However much we elaborate, what we are pretending is not as interesting or as complicated as the information we would have if we were dealing with real experience in real life.

What is different when training asks you to stay firmly in your own skin, noticing your authentic reactions and the way they grow from your own life experience, strengths and interests?

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