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10 Essential Emotion Regulation Skills for Adults

Emotion skills for personal happiness, success, and smooth relationships.

These 10 emotion regulation skills are essential for personal happiness, success, and smooth-running relationships.

If you have difficulty in any of these areas, there is no need to criticize yourself but you have a target you can work on.

1. Identifying which specific emotions you’re feeling.

For example, do you know the difference between feeling jealous and feeling envious? How about the difference between shame and embarrassment? (See the bottom of this post to find out if you’re right.) Do you recognize when you’re feeling anxious, angry, or ashamed? Are there some emotions you’re better at identifying in yourself than other emotions? (Many people have a hard time identifying when they feel ashamed but an easier time recognizing when they feel anxious.)

2. Identifying which specific emotions someone else is feeling.

For example, do you notice when your partner is reacting angrily because they are feeling anger and embarrassment, instead of just recognizing the anger element?

Try to label others’ emotions correctly rather than just labeling others as “in a bad mood.”

You’ll be able to provide more effective reactions if you can correctly identify which specific emotions other people are having. If you realize you’re unsure, you can ask the person to help you understand.

3. The ability to start and persist with pursuing goals even when you feel anxious.

If you can tolerate feeling anxious, you’ll be less likely to avoid trying new things, more likely to try things a second time if it didn’t go well the first time, and less likely to abandon projects before they’ve become successful.

4. The ability to tolerate awkwardness.

Can you communicate clearly and directly when it makes sense to do this even when you’re feeling awkward? For example, when you need to explain to someone why you’ve decided not to use their service. Or, do you avoid these situations?

5. The ability to have intimate conversations rather than stonewall, avoid, or flee.

For example, if your partner wants to talk about having another baby and you’re not on the same page, do you flat out refuse to have the conversation (termed “stonewalling”), try to change the subject whenever it comes up, or disappear from the room when the subject is raised?


6. The ability not to crumble when someone is pressuring you.

For example, can you stand your ground when a salesperson is trying to upsell you or is trying to make a sale by making you feel afraid?

7. The ability to soothe your own emotions.

For example, do you know how to make yourself feel better when something goes wrong or you realize you've made a mistake with something?


8. The ability to soothe other people's emotions.

Do you feel confident in your ability to comfort other people when they're distressed?

9. Can you wait?

For example, are you able to wait till tomorrow to eat the rest of the dessert you made when you've already had one portion?

10. Do you know how to manage your positive emotions?

For example, do you regularly schedule activities you know you'll look forward to?


  • Jealousy is when you’re worried about losing something, such as when someone is flirting with your boyfriend.
  • Embarrassment is something you feel about a behavior; shame is something you feel about some perceived flaw in who are.

For more, read The Anxiety Toolkit, subscribe to be notified of new posts from Alice Boyes, and follow on Twitter @DrAliceBoyes.

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