Role-Play Activities About Expressing Feelings

Updated February 21, 2017

Successful business leaders demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence, according to researcher Daniel Goleman. Leaders' emotions and actions prompt subordinates to respond with similar feelings and actions, and the way in which leaders express emotions affects their co-workers. Researcher Fabio Sala has found that when leaders were in a good mood, their subordinates took in information more effectively and responded more creatively. Role-play activities can help leaders express their feelings productively.


Mirroring is a simple role-playing activity that requires concentration and cooperation. Two people face each other, and one takes the lead in making slow movements. The other person tries to copy that person's actions as if he were a mirror. This means anticipating the other person's actions and trying to move in perfect sync with her. It also means that the person leading the mirror must choose motions that can be mirrored. For example, jumping is almost impossible to mirror, because it's unexpected. The leader should keep the movements wide and slow. After a few minutes, the two people should switch roles.

This role-play activity helps workers learn to be in tune with each other. They must carefully anticipate the other person's actions. They also must see how their actions can be picked up and repeated by others. The exercise also develops focus and concentration -- important skills for leaders as they learn to express their feelings and see the effect their feelings have on others.

Emotion Identification

Before the training session, make a list of emotions and cut them into separate slips of paper. These emotions might include joy, trust, fear, sadness, disgust, anger, anticipation, surprise, optimism, awe, love, disappointment, remorse, contempt, aggressiveness, envy, irritation, disgust, pride, cheerfulness, nervousness, sympathy, shame and horror. Fold the papers and put them in a bin.

Gather participants in a circle. Give each a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. Tell them that each of them will be given the opportunity to role-play an emotion. Everyone else is to watch and try to guess what emotion that person is showing. Have each person draw an emotion from the bin and look at it secretly. Tell each person they will say "The dog is barking" using the emotion that they drew. Have each person in turn say the sentence. Everyone else should write down that person's name and a guess at what emotion is being shown.

Afterward, have everyone share responses and then each person can reveal the emotion he was portraying. Talk about how verbal cues meant different things to different people. Discuss what happens when someone is feeling one emotion and someone interprets it as a different emotion.

Practicing Situations

Divide participants into pairs. Give each pair a different role-play situation that calls upon them to express an emotion. Have them practice the situation with each other and then present it to the rest of the group. Sample situations could include: 1. Expressing disappointment that an employee broke a rule for the third time after being previously warned. 2. Expressing excitement that the sales team landed a major contract. 3. Expressing wariness about a vendor's offer to refit the point-of-sale system with new software at a reduced cost. 4. Expressing joy at a co-worker's promotion.

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About the Author

As a professional writer since 1985, Bridgette Redman's career has included journalism, educational writing, book authoring and training. She's worked for daily newspapers, an educational publisher, websites, nonprofit associations and individuals. She is the author of two blogs, reviews live theater and has a weekly column in the "Lansing State Journal." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University.