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Feeling on Command

I recently had the opportunity to talk to a group of HR Managers about the advantages of using corporate actors in Training and Development. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the attendees asked me what we can learn from actors when it comes to managing our emotions.

It is a beautiful question.

Because corporate actors, also known as role play actors, do not only have their own emotions that are constantly present, they also have to manage the feelings of the roles they play in the different simulations. Their job and their art is to convincingly act out and manage all these feelings AND connect to the emotions of the participants on top of that.

While the rest of us just have to master our own feelings so they don't get in the way of life, corporate actors need to manage their emotions so exceptionally well that they are able to "feel on command" during training workshops.

So yes.
I believe there is a thing or two you can learn from role play actors when it comes to managing our emotions.

Let me share my personal experience:

For me, in order to truly bring across emotions in a role play scenario, I have to actually FEEL them. And that can be quite a challenge and took me a lot of practice. Because if I am feeling joyful, how do I all of a sudden switch my feeling to one of sadness? Or when I am feeling goofy and playful and I need to act angry?

The magic answer is: I work with my thoughts.

I have a set of thoughts and memories that I know will reliably bring me to feel a certain way. These thoughts are very private and personal and the art for me to know is what thoughts trigger which feelings and to be able to access these thoughts at any given moment.

What we can learn from this is that is shows how much power our actually thoughts have.

For example: Just by thinking about that nasty break up my entire body language changes. My tone of voice changes instantly to anger and I start to feel frustrated.

Luckily this method can work both ways. Because if I can bring about thoughts that create 'negative' feelings I need for my role play acting, it also means I can choose thoughts that create 'positive' feelings. Meaning I am managing my emotions.

And so can you. I mean, just try and think of something extremely funny and feel miserable at the same time... Impossible.

Now, I know this sounds easy but in reality it often proves to be a lot more difficult.
Much like with any new skill: you will need a lot of practice to make it perfect. But it is definitely worth a try.

So perhaps use your inner actor more often these coming weeks and taking control over your thoughts. Before your emotions take over you.

Janine de Muinck is founder and director of InterACT WA, a high performance consultancy specializing in creative, experiential training solutions. She is also a professional actor en trainer. She can be contacted at


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