What Is Emotional Competence?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
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Emotional competence is the term used to describe a person’s ability to freely express his or her own emotions. It stems from emotional intelligence, which is the ability to identify emotions. Competence is learned and determines a person’s potential to interact constructively with other people. This social skill involves utilizing individual competencies, both personal and social.

Personal emotional competence relies on self-awareness. This self-awareness summarizes a person’s recognition of personal aspects such as individual emotions and how those emotions affect other people. Personal competence also relies on self-regulation, which is the ability to maintain emotional control and handle adaptation. A person must first be able to understand his or her personal emotions before other people’s emotions are considered.

Social competence is another individual aspect of emotional competence. It refers to empathy for other people. Social skills are important, particularly in a work atmosphere. Communication and effective conflict management play large roles in successful interactions.

Through emotional competence, humans have the ability to react, not only to their personal emotions but also to those experienced by others. By understanding emotions such as anger, grief, and fear, a person can respond correctly when someone else experiences those emotions. Recognizing personal emotions leaves people open to responding appropriately to the emotions that other people experience. Without understanding of one’s own emotions, it is hard to empathize and help or praise someone else through their emotions.


Many psychologists and similar types of doctors believe that a lack of emotional competence causes different emotional issues, which in turn leads to a suppression of emotions. Research has shown that internalizing emotions can lead to a decline in physical and mental health. Stress levels increase, which can cause harmful conditions such as high blood pressure, rapid weight gain or loss, and fatigue. Emotional suppression can also lead to depression. Additionally, relationships with other people may suffer because emotional incompetence causes a lack of emotional sharing and response.

Although there are many different types of emotional issues that can cause difficulty with emotional competence, emotional intelligence plays an influential role in a person’s ability to learn competence. For people who suffer from diseases or mental issues that interfere with the skills included in competency, doctors generally try to help develop emotional intelligence as the first step. When a troubled person gains the ability to distinguish one emotion from another, he or she can then start learning how these emotions should be applied to daily experiences.


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Post 3

I have trouble controlling my reactions, especially when I'm upset and angry. How do I calm down in these situations? It's so hard to control my emotions.

Post 2

@turkay1-- Emotional competence is learned in childhood. It's more difficult to learn as an adult, but not impossible. Many therapists and counselors work on this and they can train adults to identify emotions and learn to use them as appropriate.

The hardest part might be to get your father to agree that he has trouble with emotional competence and desire to change that. But it's great to hear that there are people like you who instead of simply giving up on their relationships, are seeking to help those with emotional incompetence. You really are a great example.

Post 1

My father is terrible at expressing his emotions and this has always strained our relationship. I know he cares for me, but he has never expressed or shown that which led me to think as a child that he doesn't like me.

Now that I am older, I understand that he has a problem with emotional competence. But this doesn't take away the distance in our relationship.

As family, is there anything we can do to help an emotionally incompetent family member to realize and express his or her emotions?

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