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Emotional skills refer to the ability to recognise, express and regulate your emotions. Emotional skills are the foundation of self-awareness and good mental health. Recognising and understanding your emotions also helps to recognise those of other people, which is an integral part of how we interact with others.

Emotional skills are important for many reasons. They help to express and regulate your emotions, to control yourself when necessary, to recognise your own needs, to be assertive when it comes to your boundaries, to build successful relationships, to take care of your well-being, and to live a life that you enjoy. Without good emotional skills you can easily be a prisoner of your emotions. You may notice that emotions control your life without you making conscious decisions about which direction you want to go in. Emotional skills allow you to stand back from your own emotions and decide in which cases acting according to your emotions takes you in the desired direction and in which cases it doesn’t.

Emotional skills do not develop by themselves. Their foundation is laid in childhood. The skills that you learnt in childhood to recognise, express and regulate your emotions have a big influence on how you cope during hard periods in life, how you act with other people and how well you actually know yourself. Like other skills, these too can be learnt and strengthened throughout life. Emotional skills are an important resource in your life and you should strengthen them irrespective of what kinds of skills you’ve learnt previously. Dysfunctional skills can be changed and good skills improved.

Strengthening emotional skills

  • Pay attention to your emotions. Is it easy for you to recognise emotions? Can you name different emotions? If recognising emotions is difficult, try using lists to name them.
  • Do you allow yourself some emotions over others? Do you have forbidden emotions that you don’t allow yourself? Try to react to emotions without dividing them into good and bad or allowed and forbidden. Emotions themselves do not hurt anyone and therefore do not need to be forbidden.
  • Give yourself the right to express all kinds of emotions. Think about how you can do it without hurting yourself or others.
  • Try to find ways to regulate your emotions and to control yourself in situations where expressing your emotions is not possible or appropriate for some reason. However, this does not mean denying or suppressing your emotions. Tell yourself that you have recognised your emotions and you will get back to them later if necessary.
  • Treat yourself with respect. Self-respect is the foundation of emotional skills. Respecting yourself means you are willing to listen to your emotions and receive the messages they convey.
  • Consider your emotions as messengers. Emotions always have something to tell you, and they’re trying to guide you in the right direction in life.