Level I: Emotion Cards Games 1-3

The first set of games in Level I helps to develop and practice self-awareness and a robust emotional vocabulary. You will notice that all the cards with emotions on them have the words "I feel..." and "I think..." at the top.

"I Feel" vs. "I Think"

The majority of times, when people say "I feel," they really mean, "I think." This eliminates the opportunity to be open with our emotions. Compare these two statements:

  • "I feel like you are not listening."
  • "I feel insecure because I think you are not listening."

See the difference? When we lead with emotion, we are setting the conversation up for EQTunement and Collaborative Change.

In these games, we will be practicing using the phrases, "I feel" and "I think" properly.

The reason to use present tense:

Staying in present tense is important to be intentional and in the moment. This is an important part of developing EQ and demonstrating attunement. While it is important to resolve the past, using present tense will teach you how to recognize emotions and respond appropriately immediately. There are also positive effects on the brain that occur when we stay intentionally present.

The reason for saying "I think:"

Some people ask if using the words "I think" are really necessary. While it isn't a deal breaker, there are a couple of great reasons to practice conversational skills this way. First, saying "I think" clearly helps you mentally sort the difference between what you think and how you feel. Second, when you acknowledge how you think, you become open to re-framing your thinking to change the responses. In both instances, the pathway to emotional intelligence and maturity becomes accelerated.

Game 1: Share "I Feel" and "I Think"

Shuffle the emotion cards (white backs). Place in a pile. Everybody will draw a card and make an "I feel" and "I think" statement using the drawn emotion. This will introduce a wide range of random emotions.


  • "I feel humble when I think about how many mistakes I have made."
  • "I feel determined because I think accomplishing our goals would be great for our company."
  • "I feel surprised about my friend's decisions. I think he might be making a mistake."

Once everybody gets the hang of this, move to the next game.

Pro Tip: To keep the game fun and safe, anybody is allowed to pass on a card.

What if the game gets emotional?

The depth in which people share their feelings varies from individual to individual and the context in which the game is played. Sometimes people can get very emotional, and that is OK. Remember that this is a game. It is not designed to be a counselling session. If somebody gets emotional or vulnerable, acknowledge and appreciate their sharing and then move on. This will increase joy in the game and give everybody permission to be more authentic and vulnerable.

Game 2: Ask to Share What You Think

Draw a card. Make an "I feel" statement and then ask if you can share the reason you feel that way (remember: do not use the word "Why"). Once you have permission, go ahead and share your "I think" statement. For example:

  • "I feel angry today. Can I share the reason?"

This round lets you practice sharing an emotion and asking permission to start a conversation. This is very helpful as a "soft starter," especially during confrontation or difficult topics. For example, it is never wise to start with: "You make me angry because you never listen to me!" We should never share our emotions with "You," as this immediately invokes a Corrective Complex.

Game 3: Let Others Ask You Open Questions

Draw a card. Make an "I feel" statement and then let someone ask you any open question. An open question, as opposed to a closed one, does not have a yes or no answer. Go ahead and answer.

  • You: "I feel optimistic."
  • Them: "Really? How come? Tell me more."
  • You: "I feel enraged."
  • Them: "What do you normally do when you are enraged?"

Draw as many cards for each game until everybody feels proficient in the difference between "I feel" and "I think." Don't hesitate to look up the definitions of each emotion and have a discussion on what they mean to you personally (this is especially valuable for children).

Next: Emotional Connections Game >

Back: To Overview >