7 Effective Emotional Intelligence Icebreakers for Adults

Emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in an individual’s personal and professional success. It is one of the types of intelligence and encompasses a range of skills like self-awareness, empathy, emotional regulation, and effective communication.

But in today’s fast-paced world, people are losing touch with their ability to understand and manage emotions effectively. They have trouble empathizing with others, have poor social skills, and are unable to showcase appropriate behaviors. And this makes it hard for them to maintain meaningful and close relationships. Therefore, the need of the hour is that people work on enhancing their emotional intelligence to do better in life. 

One powerful way to develop and enhance emotional intelligence is through icebreaker activities designed specifically for adults. These icebreakers offer a unique opportunity for adults to connect, deepen self-awareness, and foster empathetic relationships. They also serve as valuable tools to explore and understand emotions, build trust, and promote open communication within groups. 

So, if you are looking for icebreakers for your workplace or a social gathering, have a look at our range of activities that will engage, inspire, and foster emotional growth among adults.

Icebreakers to evoke emotional intelligence in Adults

1. Life Grid

The first icebreaker on our list is Life Grid. It is an activity designed to build trust and relationships in a group of adults who have just met. It helps people to know about different aspects of each other’s lives and the good and bad they are dealing with. Learning about one another’s situation builds familiarity, trust, empathy, and strong connections. 

 Life Grid

You’ll Need:

  • A whiteboard
  • A marker

How to conduct this activity:

  • On a whiteboard, make a 2×2 grid. 
  • In each box, write the names of four aspects of life – Health, Career, Family & Social life, and Spirituality. 
  • Invite one participant at a time and ask them to rate each of these life areas on a scale of 1 – 4, where 1 means they need to work on it the most and 4 means they’re doing great in that area.
  • After the person is done rating, ask them to share more about the areas with 4 and 1 rating. Let them share according to their comfort level. 
  • When all participants have finished their turns, put forward questions like “What did they learn about each other?” and “How can they help one another to improve areas with the least rating?”

2. The Token Exchange

The Token Exchange is another fun icebreaker to get adults moving, raise self-awareness, and learn about others. This activity is perfect for a large group and when you have ample space so participants can comfortably move around. As a facilitator, you will need to prepare ahead for this activity so that everything runs smoothly in between. Let’s see how to go about this “get to know each other” activity.

 The Token Exchange

You’ll Need:

  • Colorful paper tokens
  • A glass jar
  • A chart paper 
  • Marker

How to conduct this activity:

  • Cut out or buy circular paper tokens in different colors a day before you plan to conduct this icebreaker activity. Remember that every participant must get 10 tokens of different colors. So, make as many tokens as you’ll require depending on the number of participants in the group.
  • Prepare a prompt chart with ten prompts using chart paper and markers along with the tokens. Give one color to each prompt. For example, red for prompt 1, yellow for prompt 2, and so on. A few prompt ideas for your reference are:
    • Red – What makes you angry?
    • Yellow – What makes you happy?
    • Green – What calms you down?
    • Pink – How do you love to relax?
    • Blue – What makes you sad?
    • White – What do you do to find peace?
    • Brown – How do you handle a dispute?
    • Black – Is there any poor choice you made in life?
    • Purple – What do you hope for yourself in the future?
    • Orange – What’s that one thing which always excites you?
  • On the day of the activity, give each participant ten tokens in different colors and keep the glass jar on the table.
  • Participants must now reach out to one another, and share answers to one of the color-coded prompts. 
  • After answering one prompt, they must reach out to another participant and share an answer to a different prompt. 
  • Each time participants answer a prompt, they must put the respective token in the glass jar on the table. 
  • This way, they will meet and learn about ten other group members and build better connections. 

3. Emotional Reflections

Start your day with a round of this simple yet powerful icebreaker activity. You could conduct this activity a few days after your new team’s first meeting when people somewhat know each other. The activity creates self-awareness of a person’s own feelings and that of other members.

By learning to acknowledge personal feelings, participants can improve their intrapersonal intelligence and work on regulating their emotions in the right way. They also understand each other’s state of mind better and find ways to interact responsibly. 

Emotional Reflections

You’ll Need:

  • A printout of the emotions wheel
  • Q-cards
  • Writing tools for everyone

How to conduct this activity:

  • Print a copy or copies of the emotions wheel, a diagrammatic representation of different types of emotions. You can download a free copy from the Internet. 
  • Distribute Q-cards and writing tools like pens or markers to every participant. 
  • Now pass the emotions wheel printout to the participants. 
  • Each person takes time to identify their emotional state and write down those emotions on the card.
  • In the end, participants can talk about their current emotional state and why they feel that way. 
  • End the session by congratulating participants for being more self-aware and stating that all emotions are valid and important. By learning ways to deal with our feelings and respecting the emotions of others, we can treat people respectfully. 

4. Connecting Through Empathy

You must have heard about empathy games for adults, but here’s a simple icebreaker to build empathy, one of the core areas of emotional intelligence, among people meeting for the first time. The activity usually starts on a lighter note. Still, it may turn serious as participants gradually open up and get comfortable in front of others. 

Connecting Through Empathy

You’ll Need:

  • A whiteboard
  • A marker

How to conduct this activity:

  • Use the marker to write “I ______” on the whiteboard.
  • Each person must come forward and say a statement about themselves, starting with the prompt on the board. They could say, “I am 30 years old,” or “I like to play chess.”
  • People with the same thing in common must raise their hands to let others know.
  • As the game progresses, participants may share their personal struggles like “I miss my dad” or “I have anxiety issues.” 
  • Repeat this activity until everyone gets a chance to complete the statement. If you have fewer participants, you may have multiple rounds. 
  • At the end of the activity, participants will know what they have in common, thus helping them bond better and empathize with others. 

5. Let’s Share Our Struggles

Everyone has struggles, but we don’t realize it because we never hear about them. Use this icebreaker activity to build empathy and let people know they are not the only ones struggling in life. We all have our struggles, and it is important to be kind and considerate when interacting with others. 

Let's Share Our Struggles

You’ll Need: 

  • Q-cards
  • Pen/markers
  • A box to collect Q-cards

How to conduct this activity:

  • Distribute one Q-card to each participant.
  • Let them write one thing they’re struggling with at the moment and put it in the box. They should not write their names on the cards.
  • When all are done, ask someone to volunteer and read out the cards. 
  • By the end of this activity, people will realize they are not the only ones having a difficult time in life, encouraging them to be more respectful and treat each other with kindness and compassion. 

6. Be Resilient

One of the areas in which most people struggle is dealing with criticism. Whenever someone criticizes us or our efforts, we immediately jump into attack mode and maybe react inappropriately, which we may regret later. To develop emotional control in situations like these, we must have the ability to take criticisms positively and find ways to improve.

But sometimes you find yourself in the company of people who love to criticize others no matter what, and the best way to handle such people is not to take their opinions seriously. Just like certain games and activities help build resilience in adults, this icebreaker teaches participants to take unnecessary opinions lightly and not stress out. 

Be Resilient

You’ll Need:

  • Just two people ready to participate in the activity

How to conduct this activity:

  • Form pairs of individuals.
  • First, the two will talk and learn about each other’s lives, choices, careers, etc.
  • The next step would require one person to begin criticizing the other. Make sure everyone knows their limits and uses only light criticisms for the activity.
  • The other person must hear these criticisms and respond light-heartedly without letting the opinions affect them.
  • When one participant is done, the other person may repeat this activity. 
  • In the process, both will learn that it is possible to neglect unnecessary criticism without losing their cool. So, the next time they find themselves in a tricky situation, they know how to handle it. 

7. The Good and the Bad

This one is an up, close, and personal icebreaker where participants work in pairs. It is a great activity for those who are not really comfortable expressing themselves openly. Allowing them to talk one-on-one with another person makes it easier for them to share their feelings. It also gives participants a perspective of what others are going through and how they can help each other through their struggles.

The Good and the Bad

You’ll Need:

  • Chairs 
  • A low-noise environment 

How to conduct this activity:

  • Use name chits to make pairs of participants.
  • Ask the pair to get chairs to sit on and get ready to talk.
  • Each of them must now share one good thing and one bad thing that happened to them in the past week and how it has affected their lives. 
  • After listening to each other, they must gauge the other person’s emotional state and share what they can do to feel better or if there’s anything they can do to help each other.

In Conclusion

Emotional intelligence icebreakers are a powerful way to enhance self-awareness, empathy, and communication. By engaging in these carefully designed activities, individuals can cultivate their emotional intelligence and develop essential skills to easily steer human interactions.

As these icebreakers create a safe space for adults to connect, it helps them trust each other and build long-lasting relationships. So, let’s embrace the power of emotional intelligence and use it to create a more compassionate and emotionally intelligent world.

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