Jenny Woo is in the business of starting conversations. Her emotional-intelligence games, 52 Essential Conversations and 52 Essential Relationships, offer “questions to ask and reflect on for a lifetime, ” says Woo. For example: Describe a time when you did something you felt scared to do—what did you learn? and What does standing up for yourself mean?
The deceptively simple decks encourage give-and-take conversations that neurobiologically develop a child’s brain while also opening adults up to self-reflection and vulnerability. They have been used worldwide in schools, workplaces, and homes. “I want these decks to serve as training wheels to improving the quality of your everyday conversations,” says Woo.
After earning her MBA and working in the private sector, Woo became a mother of three. The search for (the unattainable) perfect parenting philosophy and her role as a Montessori school administrator inspired her to earn a master’s in developmental cognitive neuroscience and education at Harvard followed by a PhD in human development and education from UC Irvine.
Woo was dismayed that the social-emotional learning tools available primarily catered to schools with money to implement them, neglecting underserved populations and missing-parent partnerships. She focused on creating an accessible and adaptable solution for all populations in all settings.
Woo’s future plans include developing more specific content for college students and corporate employees. In the end, it’s all about being authentic, says Woo, “to truly hear each other and, more importantly, to hear yourself: What is it that you want? What is it that you need?”