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Often, the biggest stressors for guides are around conflict: unhappy customers, belligerent locals, an annoyed vendor, etc...
And while these are situations that, thankfully, don't come up too often for the average guide, the lingering thought that it might happen can give even the most experienced guide a bit of anxiety.
I think there's this connotation of role-playing that it's an embarrassing & awkward exercise a corporate office might put their employees through. But the unease that comes from the unknown can be solved with muscle-memory, which comes from practice, which, can be expedited with role-playing.
In this article, I'll explain why role-playing is my favorite tool for combatting conflict and breakdown what that training could look like.
Why Role-Playing Helps Guide Prepare for Conflict
As mentioned, conflict really doesn't come up that often for a tour guide. So it's not something they can practice on a regular basis.
When you're under conflict, there are a lot of things to consider all at once. There's obviously something that needs your immediate attention, but while you're trying to decide the best way to defuse the situation, you're also aware of your other guests- who are waiting to see how you'll react. And perhaps you're also aware of the fact that you've never been in this exact situation.
A very human reaction to this much pressure is to freeze or go into fight or flight (where your instincts take over). What role-playing teaches is that instinct.
Role-playing allows for you to be put in the worst-case-scenario. So when scenario pops up on an actual tour, you've been here before. And you can allow your body to go into auto-pilot, using the techniques & wording that you've practiced during role-playing training.
How to Facilitate Role-Playing Training
Role-playing can be used to train guides on any uncomfortable situations that don't often come up (a guest refusing to wear a mask, an intoxicated local who interrupts your tour & wants your guests' attention, a guest who is giving unwanted attention to the guide or guest, etc...)
Here's a general outline of how I run this training.
This will give your guides confidence in their ability to handle conflict on their tours, and prepare them to handle all situations smoothly, should they occur.
Bonus- this exercise also works for practicing things that make guides uneasy, such as asking for reviews or selling other tours.