5 ways to build emotional literacy through using Feeling Face Cards | HMA

5 ways to build emotional literacy through using Feeling Face Cards

Example of Feeling Face Cards

For many years we have been using these very cool Feeling Face Cards in our group work. We have also been finding ways to integrate their use within the design of programmes, particularly those targeting men. We have found over the years that one of the challenges many men find themselves struggling with is around recognition of the wide range of feelings that they have. By default this limits their ability to recognise the feelings in others and respond accordingly. Building empathy skills concurrently builds safety and connection in relationships. The four stages of empathy are: firstly recognition of a emotion; secondly, recognition of a emotion in others; thirdly, being able to put yourself in another position and approximate the emotional experience; and fourthly, using the information available adjusting behaviour accordingly.

This is where we had found the Feeling Faces of huge benefit. At a simple level it helps to build an emotional repertoire while at a more complex level allows a person to have a deep sense of connection with others. We all know that feelings can be frightening things, particularly when they are very intense. Normalising feelings and the expression of the appropriate ways contributes to safety so that we don’t have to be a slave to them.

Below are five ideas about how to use the Feeling Faces Cards within a group programme.

  1. Learning the language of feelings. Having the Feeling Face Cards on the whiteboard (they are magnetized) allows for asking questions at certain moments within sessions what the feeling might be at any particular moment in time.
  2. Learning to meet needs appropriately. One of the challenges in group work is how to provide enough opportunity to rehearse and practice skills. We know that repetition and over learning are key ingredients in consolidating change. If a group member has identified a feeling such as sadness, then I am interested to know what the person might need by way of support from others. Many men in our experience isolate themselves with their feelings and expect others to guess what they are feeling. Ultimately they are asking other to be more mindful of their feelings than they are. Therefore practising the skill of negotiating to meet needs appropriately within the group becomes a great opportunity.
  3. Spot the emotion. This is a fun warm-up exercise for group members whereby the Feeling Face Cards are sorted with each group member taking a turn to come up to the front of the group and model the feeling. The task for the other group members is to guess with some accuracy the feeling being expressed. This does two things, firstly it helps the person miming the feeling to be more consistent, and secondly it allows group members to check on the accuracy of what they are seeing.
  4. Building a cultural language for emotion.You will notice that we have translated

    Bi-cultural Feeling Face Cards

    where possible emotions into a Maori bicultural set for the indigenous culture of New Zealand. This helps to build language competency alongside feelings competency, with a language that is at some risk. This also helps facilitators to be more responsive to indigenous participants in programmes.

  5. Distinguishing between thoughts and feelings. It will not be a surprise to any person working with others that clarifying the distinction between what is a thought and what is a feeling, is often a theme in change work. Social competency is based upon the ability to communicate clearly, ensure meanings are clear, and respond accordingly. The Feeling Face Cards provide an opportunity to work back and forth between these two positions allowing for greater clarity. “What is the feeling that goes with that thought?”, is one of my favourite questions to help make the distinction.

These are some of the ideas of how we use the Feeling Face Cards in our practice. I am aware that we have sold significant numbers of these to facilitators involved in programme delivery around the world. I am really interested to know some of the creative ways that you have found to incorporate these on your practice. Love to hear from you.

For more information about where you can source these Feeling Face Cards go here.


Published on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012, under Practice tips and techniques, Programme design & development

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