According to a new study, emotional competence (EC), the ability to understand, manage, express and use emotions, is a skill that can be learned. There are three levels of EC that affect every area of one’s life, knowledge, focus and ability. Knowledge is how much an individual understands about their own emotions. Focus is how well someone is able to manage their emotions and emotional responses. And Ability refers to how a person uses their emotional knowledge to cope with a specific situation in order to achieve a desired outcome. “At a psychological level, higher trait EC is associated with greater well-being and higher self-esteem as well as a lower risk to develop psychological disorders,” said Delphine Nelis of the Department of Psychology at the University of Liege in Belgium, and lead author of the study. “Socially, higher ability–trait EC is related to better social and marital relationships and, all things being equal, to a greater likelihood of being chosen as a romantic partner. Workwise, higher trait EC is associated with greater academic achievement and higher ability–trait EC is associated with higher job performance,” said Nelis. “Ability–Trait EC is also linked to the likelihood of adopting unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and reckless driving.”
Because of the deleterious consequences poor EC can have, Nelis wanted to know if adults could improve their EC, and if so, what implications that would have on their lives. “To this end, we designed an 18-hour intervention that focused on teaching theoretical knowledge about emotions and on training participants to apply specific emotional skills in their everyday lives,” said Nelis. “Sessions were centered on the four core emotional competencies: identification, understanding, regulation, and utilization.” Nelis found that the participants saw significant long-term improvement in EC as a result of the sessions. “Six months after the intervention, participants in the training group were more extroverted, more agreeable, and less neurotic. We also showed that the development of EC paired with positive changes in psychological well-being, subjective health, quality of social relationship, and work success.” Nelis added, “These findings bring hope to people who have not had the opportunity to develop their EC as children. With motivation, effort, and guidance, such individuals can still improve their EC later in life, and thereby enhance their adjustment in many domains of life.”
Nelis, Delphine, Ilios Kotsou, Jordi Quoidbach, Michel Hansenne, Fanny Weytens, Pauline Dupuis, and Moira Mikolajczak. “Increasing Emotional Competence Improves Psychological and Physical Well-being, Social Relationships, and Employability.”Emotion 11.2 (2011): 354-66. Print.
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