Emotional Intelligence

Understanding your feelings and using them wisely

Strength of heart

“We have to make it cool to feel again.” 

—Lady Gaga

Why does emotional intelligence matter?

Emotions are a large part of who you are. They affect whether you pay attention or are distracted, if you remember or forget. They influence whether you make good decisions or bad ones, stick with your choices or change your mind. How you feel also impacts your physical health and your ability to build and maintain relationships. We all need skills to recognize and understand our emotions, label and express them, and regulate them to achieve optimum well-being and success at home, school, and in the workplace.

Pulse Check

Think about yourself. How many of these things are true?

  • I notice how I am feeling and think about why I feel that way.
  • I look at others’ facial expressions and body language to know how they are feeling.
  • I generally understand what causes my feelings.
  • I have a wide and specific vocabulary for talking about my feelings.
  • I am comfortable expressing my feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant ones.
  • I have a lot of different strategies for handling my feelings.


How do I encourage emotional intelligence in others?

Model it. Try hard to understand the emotions of others by listening carefully, paying close attention to people’s faces and bodies, and asking them how they feel. Strive to handle your own emotions in a way that aligns with your best self and your goals.

Celebrate it. Emotions are contagious: When we’re feeling good, we can spread those positive feelings by sharing them with others. If you see the young people in your life experience pride, gratitude, or inspiration, applaud it and encourage them to talk about it: “I love how you helped your friends resolve their argument. Let’s tell the rest of the family about it at dinner.” 

Enable it. All emotions matter. Create space for friends and loved ones to feel comfortable exploring and expressing all of their emotions—good and bad: “You seem upset about the game. Talk to me about what’s frustrating you.” Use conflict and challenging situations as opportunities for both you and them to practice and develop emotion skills.

About the Authors

Marc Brackett, Ph.D., is founder and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and a professor in the Child Study Center of Yale University. He serves on the board of directors for the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and is the author of Permission to Feel.

Nikki Elbertson, M.Ed., is director of content and communications at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.


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Learn More

How to Manage Your Emotions

Techniques to help you identify, understand, and regulate your emotions

Is It Normal to Talk to Yourself?

The benefits of positive self-talk


Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Character is more than just emotional intelligence.

There are many other strengths of heart, mind, and will.