Emotional competence refers to one's ability to express or release one's inner feelings (emotions). It implies an ease around others and determines one's ability to effectively and successfully lead and express. It is described as the essential social skills to recognize, interpret, and respond constructively to emotions in yourself and others.
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The concept of emotional competence is rooted in understanding emotions as normal, useful aspects of being human. Anger is a reaction to aggression and gives a person the strength to repel the aggression. Though anger is usually seen in a negative light, sometimes it can also serve the purpose of protection. Grief is a reaction to abandonment or feeling unloved and it has the effect of eliciting sympathetic responses from others. Fear is a response to danger and has a clear physiological effect of heightening our senses and speeding up our reactions.
From this it can be seen that the suppression of emotion can be useful to avoid injury, embarrassment and arrest, but teaching people to suppress their inappropriate emotions is part of normal society. Suppressing other people's emotions to avoid conflict or discomfort in oneself can lead to controlling them, which may be unhealthy for all concerned. Emotionally competent people do express emotions appropriate to the situation, to their needs and to others, and they attempt not to suppress appropriate emotions, reactions and communications of feelings by others.
Some psychologists believe that if appropriate emotions are not expressed on a regular basis, a misplaced or unresolved memory of them becomes stored. Alternatively, this may also lead to an inability to process emotional clues in others, or have emotionally appropriate behaviors in oneself. Events in the future may trigger old emotions resulting in inappropriate emotional responses, or may trigger nothing, leaving one with a lack of emotional competence. This often applies to emotions that children may be experiencing, or are prevented from expressing, when an adult simply wishes to avoid dealing with feelings that may be very real to the child, who has yet to learn that feelings and facts are not mutually exclusive, or that emotionalism can be misunderstood or misused. Releasing childhood emotions, or pent up adult emotions can be a useful tool in co-counselling.
Emotional competence can lead to improved health through avoiding stress that would otherwise result from suppressing emotions. It can also lead to improved relationships since inappropriate emotions are less likely to be expressed and appropriate behaviour is not avoided through fear of triggering some emotion. It can be seen in an economics of human resource as a real capital.
Quoted in her work in 2002, Prof. Dr. Benedicte Gendron defined the concept of emotional capital as the set of personal and social emotional competencies which constitute a resource inherent to the person, useful for the personal, professional and organizational development and takes part in social cohesion, to personal, social and economic success" (Gendron, 2004, 2006). "Furthermore, because of its impact on performance (at school as at work and for the organizations), on well-being (life satisfaction, health...) and on social cohesion and citizenship, emotional capital should be taken into account seriously by public and educational policy-makers and practicians and companies." "To end, emotional capital is the set (resource) of emotional competencies which gives individuals and organizations the ability to use emotions to help individuals at solving problems and living a more effective life and the organization at facing economics and social changes and being successful and surviving in the new economics world. Emotional capital without capital (physical, human, social and cultural), or capital without emotional capital, is only part of a solution. With it, it is the head working with the heart and the hands. All of the three H need to be combined... taking into account the three H of each individual: Hands, Head and Heart." (Gendron, 2004, p. 31). The concept is derived from the emotional intelligence work which looks at self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness and social regulation as essential competencies helpful at coping stress regulation and using emotions in a positive way.
Humanistic approaches to assertiveness, as, for instance, outlined by Anne Dickson emphasise the importance of working with emotions. In particular it recognises the need to address manipulative or passive (the person does not say what they want) – aggressive (they try to force the other person to do what they want) behaviour in which the manipulator exploits the feelings of the other to try to get what they want. Building up emotional competence is a way of learning to handle such behaviour.
Another aspect is learning to be assertive when feeling emotional. Assertiveness training involves learning a range of ways to handle any situation so that a person is able to choose a way which seems appropriate for them on each occasion. With respect to emotions, people are encouraged to notice and accept what they feel. They then have choices from handling the situation calmly through doing so and saying how they feel to letting the emotion out, all of which involve emotional competence.
This also would encompass the realm of where the emotionally competent response would have judicial consequences, e.g. competence under the law.
Some researchers feel the role of emotion has been neglected, both in traditional accounts of decision-making and in assessments of adjudicative competence, and further attention and study.
- Air War College (2000-09-21). "Emotional Competence and Leadership". Air War College. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
- Leland R. Beaumont. "Emotional Competency Web Site". Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- Dickson, Anne (1982). A Woman in Your Own Right. Quartet Books. ISBN 0-7043-3420-8.
- Maroney, Terry. "Emotional Competence, Rational Understanding, and the Criminal Defendant". SSRN 892474.
- Dickson, Anne (2000) Trusting the Tides London: Rider
- Gendron, Benedicte (2004) "Why Emotional Capital Matters in Education and in Labour? Toward an Optimal Use of Human Capital and Knowledge Management", in Les Cahiers de la Maison des Sciences Economiques, série rouge, n° 113, Paris : Université Panthéon-Sorbonne.
- Heron, John (1992) Feeling and Personhood London: Sage
- Postle Denis (2003) Letting the Heart Sing - The Mind Gymnasium London: Wentworth
- The Swedish Empathy Center Organizes knowledge about empathy across disciplines
- GENDRON Benedicte (2004) Why Emotional Capital Matters in Education and in Labour? Toward an Optimal Exploitation of Human Capital and Knowledge Management, in Les Cahiers de la Maison des Sciences Economiques, série rouge, n° 113, Paris : Université Panthéon-Sorbonne.
- GENDRON Benedicte (dir. 2007) Émotions, compétences émotionnelles et capital émotionnel, Les Cahiers du Cerfee, n°23, Presses Universitaires de La Méditerranée.
- GENDRON Benedicte (2010) The Informal to Formal Learning Development of Emotional Capital for Sustainable Citizenship Development, edited by Peter Cunningham and Nathan Fretwell, published in London by CiCe ISBN 978-1-907675-01-0.