Emotional Intelligence Workout

Practicing an Emotional Intelligence Workout is at the core of everything we teach at Girls Leadership.

That’s because Emotional Intelligence, or EI, is pretty much the core skill of everything in life. We’re not even being hyperbolic here.

This is what we mean by EI:
  1. Do you know what you feel?
  2. Do you respect what you feel?
  3. Can you communicate what you feel?
Not convinced? Check out the benefits of this workout:

People with high EI

  • know themselves better;
  • are better able to regulate their actions;
  • have better understanding of others;
  • more empathy;
  • and are therefore more skilled at managing conflict.

Being skilled at self-awareness, empathy, and conflict shows up in every area of our lives: with our families, our friends, in school, at work, and in our community.

To see how this works, check out our video:

Ready to start building your EI superpowers? Choose an easy Emotional Intelligence Workout, or all three; adjust according to age and developmental readiness:

WORKOUT ONE: Identifying how you feel. (Multiple reps many times a day)

1. Download the How Do You Feel poster.

 Download the How Do You Feel Poster

Having the images on hand is critical to keep this exploration fun, provide images if the words aren’t there yet, and remind yourself how many emotions there are. We’ve created our version to intentionally include those emotions that many girls feel they are not supposed to experience.

2. Identify how you feel.

You can point, accessorize, color in, name, or write what’s going on for you right now.

3. But I’m tired, hungry, and busy!

We know you’re tired, but it isn’t really a feeling. It’s more of a physical state. We aren’t trying to be nit picky, its just that too often we use tired, hungry, and busy to cover up for what really going on. Often we don’t take the time to find out what we’re really feeling because we just accept busy, tired, or hungry as our default.

4. What if I am experiencing more than one feeling?

Feel free to accessorize both. There is no limit on feelings.

5. What if my two feelings are contradictory?

We feel you. This happens all the time. Our girls at our Summer Program taught us a way to deal with this – you combine both words. So, feeling anxious and excited? You sound anxited! What about sad and excited? That would be sadcited. You get the idea. Feelings don’t have to make sense.

WORKOUT TWO: Respect and express how you feel.

1. There are no bad feelings.

No feeling is any better than any other feeling. There are easier feelings, and harder feelings, but all these feelings give us information that we need.

2. What about jealousy?

Jealousy, along with some other hard feelings here can often lead to hurtful actions, but the feeling itself isn’t hurtful. Everybody feels jealous sometimes. It is totally normal.

WORKOUT THREE: Express your feelings.

1. Option One: Say it out loud

Each day, practice expressing a couple of feelings. If you are feeling upset it is especially important to verbalize what you’ve identified. This can help you respect your feelings, and gives other people the opportunity to support you, or at least know what is going on for you.

To keep this muscle strong it is useful to have a structured regular time when this is practiced, such as in the car, at dinner, or during bedtime. In a family, we recommend that parents go first. Nothing is more annoying than asking your kid every day how they feel. Even though most kids will deny it, studies show that parents are the powerful influencer to role model respecting and expressing the whole range of emotions—not just the easy ones.

Warning: Parents, this doesn’t mean inappropriately over share your feelings. You aren’t your kids’ friend, you are their parent, so adjust emotional boundaries based on age.

2. Option Two: Write it down

Not a talker? It can be hard. Talking about your feelings makes you vulnerable. If you don’t feel like being vulnerable or sharing, just get your feeling out of your brain by writing it down. This can be a step on the journey to sharing your feelings with somebody else, or an end in and of itself.

3. Option Three: Draw it out

Words are friends with many people, but not everyone. If you’re not one for a nightly journal, get scribbling. Or do both – write and then scribble over it.

While the poster or print out is a tool to begin the EI workouts, but won’t always be needed. A middle school girl we worked with many years ago struggled with EI, and therefore empathy. In just two weeks of daily emotional intelligence workouts she went from silently pointing to the faces to express her feelings, to pointing and saying the words, to knowing the words for not just her own experiences, but for her peers’ emotions as well. The earlier you start the workouts, the easier it is to learn.

The opportunities to practice emotional intelligence are free and endless. Wherever there is a story, there are feelings. What to learn more? Join our mailing list to make sure you never miss out.

*updated December 9, 2020

More Resources

If you enjoyed Emotional Intelligence Workout, Girls Leadership Co-CEO Takai Tyler wrote Packing Our Emotional First Aid Kit about how families can build emotional resilience and connection. Our Girl & Grown-up workshops are also a great way to learn new skills you both can put into practice every day. 

Girl & Grown-up Workshops

  1. Argenta Lopez

    I really love these tips and especially the “How do you feel” poster. Ant way it will be available in Spanish?

    • Dorothy Ponton, Digital Marketing Manager

      Hi Argenta, Good news, it is already available in Spanish. If you subscribe to the newsletter using the form at the bottom of our blog posts, the thank you page has the poster in Spanish and in English.

  2. Tia Komitas

    I would love to run these camps in toronto canada. Is there someone I can speak to about the possibility of collaborating that possibility.

    • Dorothy Ponton, Community Engagement Manager

      Hi Tia,

      I’ll have someone from our Outreach Department get back to you.

  3. Christina M

    please send me list of workshops in northern hersey area coming soon please
    I believe there is one coming in Montvale, NJ

    • Dorothy Ponton, Community Engagement Manager

      Hi Christina,

      I’ve sent an email to you with one workshop in Montvale, NJ that starts next month, and information about connecting with your local Outreach Manager to find out about more in the future.

  4. […] Nestled on the beautiful, rolling campus of Mt. Holyoke in South Hadley, Massachusetts, our Summer Program combines the best of traditional summer camp – amazing friendships, fun games and evening activities, a powerhouse team of extraordinary staff – with something no other camp offers: fun, life-changing workshops that brings every girl closer to knowing her unique self, respecting herself, and giving her the skills to create change in her world. […]

  5. margi smith

    A good springboard to continue the conversation with your children about identifying and owning their feelings is the illustrated children’s book; “Sometimes I Feel Blue; A Book about Expressing your Feelings”

  6. Linnea

    Great information!! I would just like to add a 4th option for emotional expression…Move it out, a non-verbal form of self expression. The body is an amazing tool. Using dance, mindful movement, as well as intentional postures are just as potent and effective

    • Linnea

      Oops, accidentally submitted prematurely. I wanted to close with my deep appreciation for your out reach into the community. Thank you for sharing the importance of EI and ways to develop it!!!

      • Dorothy Ponton, Community Engagement Manager

        Hi again. Have you seen the work of Amy J Cuddy? She’s a researcher in the science of body language. Here’s her TED talk.

    • Dorothy Ponton, Community Engagement Manager

      Yes! We’re big fans of games that involve movement & expression at the same time. Do you have any favorite games or dances or postures?

  7. Margaret plageman

    Thank you

  8. Tara Lira

    Thanks these are fantastic tips!


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