Emotional Competence

My definition of emotional competence is a simple one. It is the level of skill and ability with which one handles their emotions. I know that many well known and highly respected writers and researchers have penned their own definitions. In my opinion, they overstate and over define emotional competence. My simple definition covers all the bases and allows a second grader to understand it.

The degree to which you manage your hurt, disappointment, frustration, anger, hate, love and fear points to your level of emotional competence. You may be competent at effectively managing your irritation but less so at dealing with personal hurt. Even within the realms of the same emotion your level of competence might differ. For example, you may be the world’s most competent dad or mom at handling the daily irritations that arise from interacting with your children (their phones, school work, trying to sleep late, etc.). But at work, you have no such expertise at dealing with the irritation that arises when you must deal with tardy employees or micromanaging supervisors.

So, emotional competence does not have to do with your awareness or knowledge of your emotions – that is in the realm of emotional intelligence. However, emotional competence has to do with ‘how’ you express those emotions. That is skill. Lets split hairs for a minute on this issue. Your ability to ‘explore’, ‘examine’, ‘unravel’  your emotions falls in the realm of ‘competence’. Once you have done that exploration and analysis, then the resulting ‘understanding’ becomes your level of ‘intelligence’ or ‘awareness’.

I think that for too long, prominent researchers and writers have muddled the waters by lumping everything together and using the label of ’emotional intelligence’.  The word ‘intelligence‘ (from the word ‘intellect’) ought to be applied narrowly and specifically to mean: knowledge, understanding, awareness, comprehension, and discernment. “Competence” on the other hand means: skill, proficiency, expertise, ability, capability,  and adeptness.

The difference between these two words can be simplified as the difference between two words: know and do; awareness and application; knowledge and action.

So you may be fully aware of your tendency to get angry quickly and fly off the handle. You may even be keenly aware of the specific triggers that scratch the match which starts your fiery outbursts. You may even be able to feel ‘it‘ coming on… That is emotional intelligence.

Can you stop the fiery outbursts, which might lead to you smacking someone. Can you channel that energy differently when you know you have been triggered, when you feel that you are getting hot under the collar, when you are acutely aware that you are about to do something very, very stupid? How can you stop yourself, or re-route, or re-channel that strong and rising heat? The skill to do this points to your level of competence!

I will be writing more on this topic… so keep following.