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Use Role Reversal to Get Unstuck in the Drama

Role reversal is a technique used by Louise Lipman through out her trial consulting and as a faculty member at Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College. She has found that the process results in many benefits to all participants, including allowing one to better understand the people and the situation, shifting the perspective of the lawyers, clients and witnesses, and getting everyone unstuck in the drama of the case to further the story. Ms. Lipman’s offers an overview of the benefits and techniques to apply role reversal to your case preparation. Ms. Lipman is on the Faculty of Trial Skills from the Woman’s Perspective: Lean In – 360 Editor’s Note.

Through the technique of role Reversal, participants literally put themselves in each other’s shoes.

They see the world and themselves through the eyes of the other person.

Role Reversal results in each person having a better understanding of the other person

It helps to develop empathy towards the issues, concerns and feelings of the other person.

Rather than battling each other, people can work together to resolve their difficulties in a way that is satisfying to both parties.

Uses of Role Reversal:

  • Develop empathy
  • To shift perspective
  1. When a client/protagonist can neither see or imagine any perspective other than his/her own.
  2. Allowing the protagonist to look at their situation in a new light.
  3. Allows the client/protagonist, lawyer or witness to discover a new way to view the circumstances of the story.
  • To develop understanding of the situation and the people involved:
  1. Helps to understand the larger context of the situation by seeing the story through the eyes of another participant in the event.
  2. Allows for a more complete understanding of the complicated dynamics in the story.
  3. Reveals the feelings of others involved in the story to the client/protagonist and the lawyer.
  4. When you’re having a difficult time understanding and/or connecting with one of the people involved in the case, or the opposition.
  • To allow the client/protagonist to answer their own questions
  1. Re-empowers the person
  2. We really know the answers to the questions we ask. It gives the client/protagonist a chance to name them and say them out loud.
  • To enable protagonists to see themselves as the other people in their lives see them
  1. It is very helpful to see ourselves through the eyes of others, especially the antagonists in our lives.
  2. Allows us to see the impact we have on others.
  • To help get unstuck in the drama
  1. When the action grinds to a halt it will help the protagonist get unstuck.
  2. It will help to further the story.
  • To help client/protagonists have an emotional expression
  1. It is often hard to express feelings in certain situations or with particular people.
  2. When put in the role of someone who can express feelings, the client/protagonist’s feelings can often flow and they can have the catharsis they need.
  3. The client/protagonist might find it easier and more permissible to express their emotions.

Techniques of Role Reversal

  • Instruct the two people to:
  1. Switch places
  2. Take on each other’s body posture.
  3. Try as much as possible to assume the other character’s personality.
  4. Be careful not to make caricatures of each other.
  5. Activate the 5 senses to help develop a complete immersion in the role.
  6. Get inside the skin of the other the person and beneath the external parts to the underlying emotional/psychological life of the other.
  • Be sure to return the protagonist to their own role at the end of the scene / drama
  • The repetition of the last line said before the role reversal, when stepping into the new role is very important
  1. It anchors the dialogue after the momentary break in action caused by the role reversal
  2. No one has to try to figure out how to start the action from new roles
  3. Provides an opportunity for the client/protagonist to hear what has just been said from a different perspective
  4. To answer a question that he/she has asked
  5. The repetition gives the person speaking the line a jump on getting into the role
  6. Gives the other person a chance to regroup so he/she can feel secure in his/her new role
  • Complete one role reversal before reversing the protagonist into a third role

Louise Lipman, LCSW, TEP, CGP – 1133 Broadway, Ste 1227, NY, NY 10010 – 917-698-2663

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