How to improve your emotional competence

Emotionally competent people are more successful and more content with life. What skills are needed for this and how you can work on them.

25.08.2022 Gabriela Braun 5 minutes

Are you empathetic? Can you talk about your feelings and emotionally detach yourself, too? How we perceive or deal with emotions defines how we interact with ourselves as well as with other people.

Being emotionally competent or emotionally intelligent means having a whole host of skills and abilities. Compassion falls under the ability to communicate – or to motivate yourself. According to the latest scientific findings, these skills contribute significantly to personal and professional success as well as to one’s own well-being.

Emotionally competent people tend to handle conflicts constructively. They can maintain strong relationships and friendships, and look after themselves – and are therefore often seen as being satisfied and well-adjusted. The following five skills are some of the most crucial here. 

“Why does this make me so angry?”

Self-awareness is the first step towards self-discovery. You need to be aware of and identify your feelings before you then move on to managing them. The difference between simply experiencing and identifying a feeling is demonstrated most clearly when we overreact while under stress. By training your self-awareness and more consciously perceiving your feelings, you can more actively manage and control your own reactions in challenging situations.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I feel in certain situations?
  • How do I feel in the here and now?
  • How am I doing at the moment?

“Is anything wrong?”

Being empathetic means being able to understand other people’s feelings. It’s putting yourself into the situations and perspectives of others and responding in an appropriate manner. It’s about showing understanding and respect for the actions and thoughts of others. As such, learning empathy has a lot to do with sensing and observing.

Have a go at the following:

  • Try to perceive your environment and your fellow human beings correctly. Practise this by proceeding with an open mind.
  • Approach people without preconceptions.
  • Put yourself in the position of your counterpart: concentrate on them, on their thoughts, feelings and needs – and put your own perspective and emotions aside momentarily.
  • Show understanding for the person, and take their concerns seriously.

“How can I stay positive with all the things I have to overcome?”

Feelings and emotions can motivate us. We can try to positively influence our emotions with thoughts. Is something annoying or upsetting you? Use this feeling. Those who can motivate themselves will always find the strength to continue and have a greater frustration tolerance. All positive experiences are registered in a special region of our brain: the reward centre. It then releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which triggers feelings of satisfaction, joy and happiness. The reward system also kicks in when you have overcome a challenging situation. After all, stress hormones lead to increased physical and mental activity and tension. These same hormones can stimulate the body to produce dopamine – which, in turn, makes us happy. What was initially a negative, stressful event is then re-evaluated and stored as something positive through these feelings of happiness.

Ask yourself:

  • How can I change the current situation?
  • How did I manage to or fail to rectify the situation?
  • What can I do differently the next time?
  • What strengths can I make more use of?

“Do I interact well with others?”

Being socially competent means being able to identify the feelings of others and to deal with these in a practical manner. People with social skills can strike up and maintain relationships with others. They circumvent conflict effectively, have management qualities and are capable of forming and leading teams.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I enjoy working with other people?
  • Am I good at connecting with other people?
  • What trusting relationships do I foster? Or: how big a role does trust play in my relationships?
  • How great is the understanding for my world or the world of others?

“Can I express myself clearly?”

Good communication skills are part of emotional competence. These include being able to express yourself clearly and make yourself understood, and thereby convey your concerns and needs in a comprehensible way, but also actively listen to other people and take what they say seriously.


  • Give your counterpart time, and let them finish talking. Ask questions and try to listen between the lines. Refrain from judging or lecturing them.
  • Don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind.
  • Try to express yourself in a variety of different ways.
  • Give someone a compliment.
  • Take critical feedback on board and reflect on this.
  • And remember: sometimes gestures and actions speak louder than words.

How emotions arise, where our body holds them and why food is always good for the soul: find answers to these and other interesting facts in our “Ratgeber” edition on emotions. Order a free print edition or download the PDF here.

Please note: Ratgeber is not available in English, but in German, French and Italian.

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