Emotional Intelligence: Self Regulation

Self Regulation, as discussed previously, is the ability to manage stress loads and recovery. The more adept you are at self-regulation the quicker you recover to your normal state after an incident, large or small.

Once trainees learn how to self-regulate, they are better prepared to manage life’s obstacles and make the most of situations at home and onsite. Self-regulators are generally able to see the good in other people and situations, identify opportunities where others might not, act in accordance with their values and have clear goals and motivators.

Self-regulation is one of the foundations of self-efficacy, which we will discuss in the coming weeks. Self-efficiency is basically the ability to believe you have the capacity to gain the knowledge and skill and execute the behavior necessary to obtain a goal you set for yourself.

But most importantly, they are able to maintain a regulated mindset during emotionally challenging situations, stabilizing themselves and their response.

Although self-regulation is key to healthy behavior, traumatic or emotional incidents can make this process difficult and even lead to emotional dysregulation.

Most of our trainees live in environments that tend towards volatility; physically, emotionally and psychologically. Their ability to self-regulate within this environment is key to their success at moving past crisis behaviors (reacting before thinking, as well as self-preservation behaviors), plan for their future and take concrete steps towards that future regardless of what chaos is swirling around them.

In the larger conversation of emotional well being and productivity, self-regulation is one of the five elements of Emotional Intelligence, a concept developed by psychologist Daniel Goleman, each element will be examined in the coming weeks.

For decades, researchers studied why high IQ does not necessarily correlate to success. In the 1980s, studies focused on the skills sets around the ability to process emotional information and how it relates to “success” (generally monetary, relational or status).

In 1990, psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey theorized that a unitary intelligence underlay that skill sets, coining the term, Emotional Intelligence, which broke down into four areas:

  • Identifying emotions on a nonverbal level

  • Using emotions to guide cognitive thinking

  • Understanding the information emotions convey and the actions emotions generate

  • Regulating one’s own emotions, for personal benefit and for the common good

In 1995, Goleman, a science reporter for the New York Times, took the concept of emotional intelligence a step further in his eponymous book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

In it, he argues that existing definitions of intelligence needed to be reworked. IQ was still important, but intellect alone was not enough to identify one’s own emotions or the emotional state of others.

This special kind of intelligence, to process emotional information and utilize it effectively, facilitates good personal decision making, resolves conflicts and helps motivates oneself towards self-efficacy.

Goleman broadened Mayer’s and Salovey’s system to incorporate the following:

Before trainees can master emotional intelligence, the first step is understanding their feelings. While nearly everyone can determine the difference between feeling happy and sad, knowing how emotions like jealousy and envy, and shame and embarrassment differ is fundamental to properly dealing with emotions.

During the first 160 hours of training we dive into the following areas to create a platform to discuss self regulation:


If trainees are showing difficulty with adapting to life changes, their ability to self-regulate will be inhibited. It is important that they cope well with change and adapt their behavior to different situations easily.

People who resist change often experience unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety that can lead to poor physical and mental health. I often refer to one of my favorite quotes during class, encouraging trainees to incorporate it into a self-soothing mantra when they face a challenging time: Be Like Water


One of the most essential factors for self-regulation is self-awareness. A large part of being self-aware is knowing your strengths and weaknesses are viewed from the outside. How you are perceived by your peers and boss, for example. Where you are within the ever-evolving social make-up of your home, neighborhood, and job site versus where you want to be and how to move forward.

Emotional Self - Awareness

The ability to understand your emotions and the role they play in outcomes at work, home and with your own view of yourself. We delve into the ideas of perception and judgment, touching on the concept of non-judgment.


Once ownership is accepted and assimilated, growth can begin.

We are working with a young man named Jeremy Bowles. Jeremy was one of our first trainees. When I met him he was living in a homeless shelter, he had heard about our program from another shelter resident. In the last two years we've gotten to know each other, but like a majority of our trainees, knowing someone is capable and having them realizing it themselves are two very different things.

Within the first few months of meeting, we got to the point that he needed to find his own direction before he could be open to what was being presented to him.

I encouraged him to find employment outside of what we provide.

He did.

I challenged him to keep that job for 6 months or more.

He did that as well.

Now working in a minor leadership role in at a concrete firm, he has moved out of the shelter into his own residence without roommates, he has purchased a vehicle and is looking forward to coming back to class.

He is a prime example of Self Control (the struggle to hold back behaviors that are perceived as “bad”) vs Self Regulation (the ability to regulate your response regardless of what’s presented).

Like water, Jeremy is learning how to move around and through obstacles. Creating his own path and direction so that the learning he participates in will be relevant to HIS path and HIS choice towards success.

I’m honored to know him, he has taught me a great deal and I look forward to seeing his successes unfold in front of him as he moves through our program.

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