Activities and Exercises to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

What are Emotional Intelligence Activities and Exercises?

As the name suggests, emotional intelligence activities and exercises are attempts to build, develop, and maintain one’s emotional intelligence, often called EI or EQ for Emotional Quotient.

Many people are interested in improving their EI, for a variety of reasons.

Some of the most common reasons to work on your EI include:

  • Wanting to succeed in a leadership role;
  • Trying to fit in with a new organization or new team;
  • Attempting to branch out of your network and make new friends or contacts;
  • Starting a new business and wanting to improve your customer service.

And, of course, many people want to enhance their EI simply to understand themselves and the people they interact with on a deeper level. There is no downside to becoming more emotionally intelligent and the benefits can be numerous.

If you’re interested in enhancing your EI, rest assured that you are not alone in your goal! Read on to learn how to go about meeting your goal.

Tips for Using Emotional Intelligence Tools

Whether you’re looking to build your own emotional intelligence, encourage its development in your children or students, or trying to boost your team’s or organization’s EQ, there are many activities, tools, and resources you can use.

You can find a few of them below.

Tips for Enhancing Your Own Emotional Intelligence

If your goal is to boost your own emotional intelligence or help your clients boost their emotional intelligence (e.g., any EI work on an individual level), keep these seven tips in mind:

  1. Reflect on your own emotions;
  2. Ask others for perspective;
  3. Be observant (of your own emotions);
  4. Use “the pause” (e.g., taking a moment to think before speaking);
  5. Explore the “why” (bridge the gap by taking someone else’s perspective);
  6. When criticized, don’t take offense. Instead, ask: What can I learn?
  7. Practice, practice, practice (Bariso, 2016).

Tips for Enhancing the Emotional Intelligence of Teams

If you’re looking to enhance your team’s emotional intelligence, keep these 7 tips in mind:

  1. Have a ring leader;
  2. Identify team members’ strengths and weaknesses;
  3. Spark passion;
  4. Build team norms;
  5. Develop creative ways to manage stress;
  6. Allow team members to have a voice;
  7. Encourage employees to work and play together (Rampton, n.d.).

Read More: Taking a Break to drive Productivity at Work Place

EQ experts Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff tell us that three factors are absolutely essential to the success of a workgroup:

  1. Trust among members;
  2. A sense of group identity;
  3. A sense of group efficacy (2001).

If it sounds to you like these three factors are strongly associated with emotional intelligence, you’re right! You can’t have an emotionally intelligent team with emotionally intelligent members, but it takes more than that⁠⁠—you need emotionally intelligent norms and values, the right team atmosphere, and willingness to build team EQ.

To do that, you’ll need:

  • Understanding and regulation of emotions at the individual level;
  • Understanding and managing of emotions at the group level;
  • Awareness of and willingness to work with emotions outside the group.

Make sure to keep these three levels in mind as you work on building your emotionally intelligent team; remember that it’s not all about the individuals on the team, but about how they interact with each other and with those outside the group (Druskat & Wolff, 2001).

It can be daunting to think about how to improve your emotional intelligence⁠⁠— where do you even begin?

Not to worry! There are many activities and exercises that are designed to do just that. Some are intended for individuals and others for groups, but you’re sure to find something that will meet your needs.

3 Exercises for Developing and Improving EI

These three exercises are meant to help individuals build their emotional intelligence and they are particularly helpful for leaders who want to boost their EI/EQ.

1. Emotional Intelligence Assessment for Leaders

Leaders have a big job to do in any organization: they need to shape, communicate, and contribute to the organizational vision. Naturally, emotional intelligence helps immensely in this role.

This is an activity that leaders can do to assess their own emotional intelligence, which is the first step towards improving it. Take a FREE Emotional Intelligence Assessments here.

This activity consists of 10 descriptions of vision-killing behaviors that a leader may engage in, and a scale upon which to rate your own engagement in each behavior from ‘very seldom’ to ‘very often.’

The vision-killing behaviors include:

  1. Treating people badly⁠—such as not showing people they care, forgetting to say thank you, not respecting people, not making people feel valued;
  2. Living by the adage “Do as I say, not as I do,” and not setting good examples;
  3. Focusing on too many things at once;
  4. Pushing too hard on the task and forgetting the people;
  5. Not giving clear direction;
  6. Giving inconsistent direction;
  7. Not taking responsibility for failure;
  8. Focusing on the detail and forgetting to tell the “whys” or the big picture;
  9. Showing little or no personal commitment to the vision;
  10. Allowing people who aren’t performing the job to remain.

If you find yourself frequently engaging in these behaviors, that’s a good indication that your leader EQ is low. Pay close attention to the three behaviors you engage in the most often and commit to working on reducing or removing those behaviors entirely.

Read More: Rushing Through Work Begets Under Productivity and Hindered Performance

2. Temperament Analysis

Another good assessment activity is the temperament analysis. It was designed to help participants learn about temperament, understand their own temperament, and learn how to work with it.

To get started, keep in mind that our temperament is made up of tendencies and feelings that are influenced by four factors or parameters:

  • Genetic Inheritance
  • Physical Attributes
  • Life Experiences
  • Environmental Conditions

To give this activity a try, get started with the temperament questionnaire:

  1. Describe your temperament with three adjectives. Choose the ones that describe you best.
  2. Suggest three adjectives that others use to describe your temperament.
  3. Go through each of the adjectives identified in the above two questions and see if each one is because of (or how much each one is driven by) Genetic InheritancePhysical AttributesLife Experiences, or Environmental Conditions.
  4. How does each of the temperamental factors affect you on a personal level?
  5. How does each of the temperamental factors affect you on a leadership role level?
  6. Which of these factors do you want to change and why?

Think about each of the questions in detail and try discussing with a friend to maximize the learning opportunity.

Read More: Business Case Study: On Application of Emotional Intelligence Scientific Tools to Create a Thriving Organizational Climate, Starting With Emerging Leaders

3. Be the Fog (Regulate Your Emotions)

It can be very difficult for many of us to accept criticism, especially if receiving criticism provokes strong emotions. This simple exercise will help you “be the fog” and learn how to regulate and modulate your emotions in a difficult situation.

Here’s what to do:

“Act like a fog! Imagine you are a fog. When someone throws a stone at you, you absorb that stone without throwing the stone back. This is a very easy and effective technique to use against people who keep criticizing you repeatedly.”

(Skills Converged website)

For example, if someone tells you something like:

  • “You just don’t understand.”
  • “You are lazy.”
  • “You are always late.”
  • “You don’t feel responsible.”

Respond with:

  • “Yes, I just don’t understand.”
  • “Yes, I am lazy sometimes.”
  • “Yes, I was late.”
  • “Yes, I just don’t take responsibility.”

When you accept the criticism that is thrown your way (without actually taking it to heart), you will find that you disarm the person criticizing you. To practice, ask someone you know well to criticize you at rapid speed, one after the other, and employ the fogging technique to counter it.

Read More: Research: Foundation of Psychological Safety Fuels High Performing, Innovative Teams

Emotional Intelligence Group Activities

If you’d like to help a group work on building their EQ or work on your own EQ in a group setting, you’re in luck! There are tons of group activities focused on developing, enhancing, and maintaining your emotional intelligence.

Check out the four examples below.

4. Accepting Your Emotions

This exercise can help you work on one of the most fundamental skills related to emotional intelligence: understanding and accepting your own emotions.

You’ll need a group of people for this activity, but you could also modify it to work with just one pair. Here’s how to do it:

  • Divide your group into pairs and have them sit far enough away from the other pairs to get a sense of privacy.
  • Have each pair decide who will go first.
  • Tell the group members that they will each have a chance to share an experience where they felt like a victim. Once one partner has explained the experience, they should explain how they felt as a result of their experience in as much detail as possible, thinking about their specific feelings at the moment and how it impacted them afterward.
  • Allow 15 minutes or so for the first partner to share and for the pair to discuss, have them switch roles.
  • If you are running this activity in a group, bring everyone back together and have a group discussion using questions like these:
    • What did you think first when you were told to share a difficult experience with another person?
    • How did you manage to share it? How did you feel when you shared it with someone else?
    • How did you feel after acknowledging and accepting your emotions?
    • Does this exercise help with accepting how certain experiences make us feel and that it is okay to feel a certain way after negative experiences?
    • Did you feel more at peace after accepting your emotions generated by your experience?
    • Would you consider using this exercise to evaluate and acknowledge your emotions after negative experiences?

Read More: 3 practical Ideas to Fuel Business Innovation, Based on The Latest Neuroscience Research

5. Making Eye Contact

As the name of this exercise suggests, it involves using eye contact to better understand our own emotions and how we connect emotionally with others.

Gather some index cards and distribute them to your participants, then ask them to spread out within the room. Tell them to imagine themselves in an art gallery or a museum.

Next, have them move through the three stages:

  1. Stage One:
    1. Ask your participants to roam around the room as if they are in a public space while not making eye contact with anyone else. They should improvise and act the role. Allow one minute for this part.
    2. Stop everyone and ask the participants to make a note of their feelings on their cards.
  2. Stage Two:
    1. For this round, ask your participants to seek out eye contact as they go about the room. However, as soon as they have made eye contact, they should break it and look away. Allow two minutes for this part.
    2. Stop everyone and ask them to record their feelings on their cards.
  3. Stage Three:
    1. In this round, ask your participants to seek out eye contact and as soon as they have made eye contact with anyone they should pair up with that person. They should stand side by side and do not establish eye contact with anyone else. Allocate two minutes for this part.
    2. Stop everyone and ask them to record their feelings on their cards.
    3. Bring everyone back together and follow with a discussion.

Allot 10 minutes or so for the group discussion. Here are a few questions to guide your discussion:

  • While going through various stages of the exercise how did you feel?
  • How did it feel when you were making eye contact and you had to break it straight away?
  • How did it feel when you made eye contact and you could approach the person to pair up?
  • If you were slow to pair up with someone, how did it feel to go about finding someone you could make eye contact with?
  • How easy was it to make eye contact with someone?
  • How close do you feel with people that you maintained eye contact with?
  • What pre-conditioning dictates our behavior in making eye contact or maintaining eye contact?
  • How does this compare between different societies?

This exercise will help you and your group see just how vital eye contact is to emotional connection.

Read More: Tips For Setting A Productive Pace At Work

6. If You Knew…

This activity is an excellent choice for new teams or as an icebreaker at small events. It will encourage participants to share information about themselves with others in a way that encourages intimacy and group cohesion.

Start with a flip chart or a whiteboard with these questions on it:

  • What was the happiest moment in your life?
  • What was your unhappiest experience in life?
  • What motivates you to get up in the morning?
  • What do you use your money for?
  • Who is the most important person in your life?
  • Describe your best friend.

Once everyone is ready to get started, ask them all to sit in a semi-circle facing a flipchart or whiteboard. Randomly select one participant to answer the questions on the board, and tell them they have 10 minutes to go into as much detail as possible. Instruct the other participants not to ask questions or interrupt during those 10 minutes, then move on to the next participant.

At the end, pose these questions to get a good discussion started:

  • Did this activity help you to know your team members better?
  • Did it help explain certain behaviors and actions of co-workers?
  • Would it be helpful to share some personal information with those that we work closely with?
  • Did this session help clear up some of the misunderstandings between team members?

Completing this exercise will likely result in you feeling more connected and comfortable with the other participants, and help you learn how to read emotions in others and listen attentively.

Read More: How to Revitalize Our Schools For Community Development

What would it actually look like, to live in a culture where empathy and EQ were part of our vision? Cleveland Clinic made this video as one vision of empathy, and the ability to see other’s pain.

Empathy: The Human Connection to Patients Care

If you watched the video, what parts did you find most insightful? We would love to hear from you in our comments section below.

7. Exercise to Increase Your Self-Awareness

All you need to start improving your self-awareness in a group setting is a stack of 3 x 5 index cards. Oh, and a group of people!

Here are the instructions:

Part One:

  1. Ask the participants “How do you feel?” Ask each participant individually instead of in the larger group, if possible.
  2. Most people will probably say they feel fine, so prepare to start the exercise with this: “Why do we almost always say we are fine, even when we are not?”
  3. Continue the discussion with questions like:
    1. “Do you find it easy to talk about your feelings?”
    2. “What makes it hard to talk about your feelings?”
    3. “Can you consciously shift your feelings from one to another?”

Part Two:

  1. Discuss how important it is to understand the wide range of human emotions so you can better understand yourself and others, and give yourself the opportunity to regulate your feelings.
  2. Instruct the group to think of as many emotions as they can and write one on each card.
  3. Spread the cards around on a table so you can help the group avoid creating duplicates.

Part Three:

  1. Collect all cards and put them upside down on the table.
  2. Ask each participant to pick two cards at random.
  3. Take turns asking each participant to reveal their cards and explain what it would take to get from one emotion to the other.
  4. After the participant provides their explanation, allow other participants to share their own explanations.
  5. Follow up with a discussion, using questions like:
    1. Do you think you came up with many emotions?
    2. Was it easy?
    3. Are you surprised there are so many emotions?
    4. Was it easy to switch from one emotion to another?

Read More: 9 Ways Emotional Intelligence Improves Team Productivity

Authored by Courtney Ackerman and Edited by Teslim Folorunsho

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August 19, 2019

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