Emotional Intelligence Endnotes

About these endnotes

This is where we provide references and in-depth information about everything in the Emotional Intelligence playbook.


We express our gratitude to the faculty and staff at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence whose work inspired this Playbook. Any errors or omissions are ours.

How we define this strength

Emotions drive your attention, which influences what you learn and remember (Izard, 2009). Emotions also affect how you interpret the world around you and how you interact with friends, loved ones, and acquaintances (Halberstadt et al., 2001; Lemerise & Arsenio, 2000). Everyone experiences a range of emotions, and that range of emotions affects all of these things—how you think and how you behave (Russell, 1980). Though it may seem you would be better off if you felt happy or calm all the time, sadness, anger, and other unpleasant emotions also can be useful. Sadness from a loss sends a signal to others that you need their help. Anger about an injustice can motivate you to stand up to a bully or defend a cause. As a result, it is important that you feel comfortable feeling and expressing a range of emotions and providing space for others to do so.

As emotions affect all you do, it’s important to pay attention to them and channel them in helpful ways (Lench, Flores, & Bench, 2011). This is where the skills of emotional intelligence come in.

The skills of emotional intelligence

At the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, we use the acronym RULER to remember the five skills of emotional intelligence (Brackett, Bailey, Hoffmann, & Simmons, 2019; Mayer & Salovey, 1997):

Recognizing emotions

You recognize emotions by noticing changes in facial expressions, vocal tones, body language, words, or
behaviors—in yourself and others. Within yourself, you can recognize emotions by thinking about what is happening
in your body—for instance, your heart rate, breathing, tension, and temperature. Practicing this skill builds your self-awareness and social awareness as you gather information about your own and others’ emotions. To practice this skill, you may ask questions such as:

  • How am I feeling? What kinds of thoughts are going through my head? What is happening to my body?
  • How may someone else be feeling? What about what they are saying or doing can help me to know? What about their face, body, or voice can I use as clues?

Another way to best recognize how someone else is feeling is to simply ask them.

Understanding emotions

You understand emotions by considering both their causes and consequences. You may find that engaging in an activity or interaction causes you to consistently experience a certain emotion. You also may find that experiencing that emotion leads to specific consequences. For example, you may notice that one friend makes you feel nervous or on edge (cause). You may also notice that you tend to bite your fingernails when you feel nervous (consequence). Building awareness of these patterns can help you create healthier relationships, and to express and regulate your emotions effectively.

To practice this skill, as you begin to feel a certain emotion or witness an emotion in others, you may ask:

  • What may have caused this emotion?
  • What people or events preceded the change in my own or another’s feelings?
  • What tends to happen when this emotion in experienced by myself or others?

Labeling emotions

Giving accurate names to emotions with a nuanced vocabulary can lead to a deeper understanding of how you can most effectively deal with those emotions (Cole, Armstrong, & Pemberton, 2010). When you find the exact word that captures a specific feeling, it’s easier to find ways to express and regulate it. You also become better at articulating your emotional
needs—as well as understanding the feelings and needs of others (Feldman-Barrett, Lindquist, & Gendron, 2007).

To practice this skill, you may consider:

  • What is going on inside my body and mind? What happened to get me to this point? Given this, what is the most specific word to describe how I am feeling right now?
  • What can I observe from another’s face, body, voice, words, and actions? What is the most specific word to describe how that person may be feeling right now?

Expressing emotions

You express emotions effectively when you consider what’s most appropriate in a given situation. The setting, people, and your goals in the moment can all affect what you do. For instance, most people express emotions more openly at home with family than they do in public with strangers. And sometimes you might work to conceal your emotions rather than express them to preserve your reputation or maintain your relationships.   

To practice this skill, you may consider:

  • How do I tend to express my emotions differently in various situations and with various people?
  • How do others around me vary in their expression of emotions across situations?
  • What clues can I find in a given situation to help me know the most helpful way to express my emotions? 

Regulating emotions

Emotion regulation involves managing your own emotions and helping others to manage theirs. Arguably, this is the most important skill of emotional intelligence, because it really affects how you feel from day to day and how you show up in the world. To regulate an emotion, you can first establish a goal—to feel more, less, or the same amount of the emotion, or to shift to another emotion. Once you have the goal in mind, you can identify a strategy—something to think about or something to say or do to regulate that emotion. For instance, if you are feeling anxious about an upcoming test, you can try to feel less anxious and calmer (goal) by taking deep breaths and reminding yourself how well you prepared for the test (strategies).

To practice this skill, you may ask:

  • What is my goal for a particular feeling? Do I want to feel more or less of the emotion?
  • What can I think about, do, or say to feel the way I want to feel (or to help someone else feel how they want to feel)?

You also may reflect on strategies you tend to use or notice others using, evaluate their helpfulness, and try new strategies that may work better.

Why these skills matter

The skills of emotional intelligence are the building blocks for what we all need to succeed in life (Brackett, 2019; Brenner & Salovey, 1997; Saarni, 1999), including the abilities to persist in the face of challenges (Ivcevic & Brackett, 2015), think clearly and make good decisions (Clore & Huntsinger, 2007), manage our stress (Ciarrochi, Deane, & Anderson, 2002), and interact well with others (Fitness, 2015).


Brackett, M. (2019). Permission to feel: Unlocking the power of emotions to help our kids, ourselves, and our society thrive. New York, NY: Celadon Books.

Brackett, M. A., Bailey, C. S., Hoffmann, J. D. & Simmons, D. N. (2019). RULER: A theory-driven, systemic approach to social, emotional, and academic learning. Educational Psychologist. doi:10.1080/00461520.2019.1614447

Brenner, E. M., & Salovey, P. (1997). Emotional regulation during childhood: Developmental, interpersonal, and individual considerations. In P. Salovey & D. J. Sluyter (Eds.), Emotional development and emotional intelligence: Educational implications (pp. 168–195). New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Ciarrochi, J., Deane, F. P., & Anderson, S. (2002). Emotional intelligence moderates the relationship between stress and mental health. Personality and Individual Differences, 32(2), 197–209. doi:10.1016/S0191–8869(01)00012–5

Clore, G. L., & Huntsinger, J. R. (2007). How emotions inform judgment and regulate thought. Trends in Cognitive Sciences11(9), 393–399. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2007.08.005

Cole, P. M., Armstrong, L. M., & Pemberton, C. K. (2010). The role of language in the development of emotion regulation. In S. D. Calkins & M. A. Bell (Eds.), Human brain development. Child development at the intersection of emotion and cognition (pp. 59–77). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Feldman-Barrett, L., Lindquist, K. A., & Gendron, M. (2007). Language as context for the perception of emotion. TRENDS in Cognitive Science11(8), 327–332. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2007.06.003

Fitness, J. (2015). Emotions in relationships. In M. Mikulincer, P. R. Shaver, J. A. Simpson, & J. F. Dovidio (Eds.), APA handbooks in psychology. APA handbook of personality and social psychology, Vol. 3. Interpersonal relations (pp. 297–318). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/14344-011

Halberstadt, A. G., Denham, S. A., & Dunsmore, J. C. (2001). Affective social competence. Social Development10(1), 79–119. doi:10.1111/1467-9507.00150

Ivcevic, Z., & Brackett, M. A. (2015). Predicting creativity: Interactive effects of openness to experience and emotion regulation ability. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 9(4), 480–487. doi:10.1037/a0039826

Izard, C. E. (2009). Emotion theory and research: Highlights, unanswered questions, and emerging issues. Annual Review of Psychology60(1), 1–25. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163539

Lemerise, E. A., & Arsenio, W. F. (2000). An integrated model of emotion processes and cognition in social information processing. Child Development71(1), 107–118. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00124

Lench, H. C., Flores, S. A., & Bench, S. W. (2011). Discrete emotions predict changes in cognition, judgment, experience, behavior, and physiology: A meta-analysis of experimental emotion elicitations. Psychological Bulletin137(5), 834–855. doi:10.1037/a0024244

Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. Sluyter (Eds.), Emotional development and emotional intelligence: Implications for educators (pp. 3–31). New York, NY: Basic Books.

Russell, J. A. (1980). A circumplex model of affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology39(6), 1161–1178. doi:10.1037/h0077714

Saarni, C. (1999). The development of emotional competence. New York, NY: Guilford Press.