Emotional intelligence: being aware of, using, understanding and managing emotions

Emotional intelligence

Emotions are always there, throughout our lives and round the clock – everyone has emotions and everybody knows about them. Even when we want to shut down our emotions, or lock them away, we just can’t do it. They can substantially influence our behaviour and our decision making on a daily basis. But how well do you know your own feelings? How do you feel? And how often do you think about emotions? Do you maybe find it difficult to classify your feelings, or to recognise or understand the feelings of the people around you? Or do you find it really easy? We call this ability emotional intelligence. Have you heard of it? We’d like to give you some deeper insights into the phrase and show you what the point of emotions is. We also give you an exercise to help you learn to be better aware of your emotions. This is the basis of understanding emotions and handling them better.

What is emotional intelligence? And what about the emotions of the Swiss population?

Emotional intelligence means the ability to be aware of emotions, to understand them, use them and manage them. And not just in yourself, but in others. If your emotional intelligence is high, then you know how you are and how others are, you understand the emotions you perceive and you know how to use them. In addition, you also know that you can change emotions, and how (e.g., by distraction or encouragement).
Do you know how the people around you feel? How do you obtain this information? Being aware of your own feelings, and interpreting them correctly, can sometimes be difficult enough. Doing this in others can be a much greater challenge, particularly when those around you are extremely reluctant to talk about their feelings. A big survey in German-speaking Switzerland found that we have a broad emotional spectrum overall. This means that we know many different emotions and can also name them. However, talking about them is still very difficult for many people, and for some, certain emotions (e.g., loneliness) are even a taboo subject. It’s interesting that we prefer to talk only about positive feelings such as «pride» and «admiration», much less about feelings like «hopelessness» or «shame». But it’s actually important to share all our emotional states. By asking «how are you?» and meaning it, you can achieve a great deal in your surroundings and start a conversation about feelings. When was the last time you asked one of the people around you about their wellbeing?

You can find out here about the effect of age and sex on how we experience emotions and whether we talk about them.

What’s the point of emotions?

Emotions are an important source of information, not just about yourself, but also about your surroundings. How do you feel when you’re giving a presentation? How do you feel when you do something you’ve never tried before? Do you get bored when you do the same thing over a long period of time? In such a case, you are motivated by boredom to get active and to change your routine. Here you will easily see how emotions can affect our behaviour. We avoid situations that make us feel uncomfortable and seek out those that boost the positive emotions. But every now and then it is also a good idea to deal with negative feelings or face your fears and anxieties. Talking about it isn’t always easy, but if you dare to take the first step of confiding in another, you can learn a great deal about yourself. You can find more on the subject of emotions in our blog post «Hi – how are you feeling today?»

Studies investigating emotional intelligence – awareness, understanding, using and handling emotions – have shown that there are links between this ability and various aspects of health. So high emotional intelligence is associated with better health, both physical and mental. There are even indications that people with higher emotional intelligence take more exercise and are less likely to exhibit behaviours like smoking or drinking alcohol. Positive effects have also been found on both performance and satisfaction in the professional context.

If you would like to learn more about emotional intelligence, we recommend the document (in German) produced by SRF Einstein called «Emotional Intelligence – what’s behind the trend».

How can I be more aware of my feelings?

Although we experience many emotions every day, we very rarely deliberately make time for them. Only in passing are we aware that we are sad, unhappy, even-tempered, nervous, happy, proud or stressed. That's why our first tip is: make time to be aware of your feelings. What are you feeling right now? Can you express your emotions in words? Does the feeling affect your body?
Try also to be consciously aware of the people around you and their feelings. How do they feel? Can you divine this based on their external appearance? No? When was the last time you asked your colleagues, friends or family about how they are?

Mindfulness exercises can also be used to get to know yourself, and consequently your own feelings, better. At the end of this article, you will find an exercise you can do in your daily routine.

Can I influence my emotions?

Yes, you can. In our daily lives, we repeatedly find ourselves in situations in which we can’t and don’t want to give our emotions free rein. You can probably think of such a situation. Mostly we want to regulate negative emotions. Only occasionally does anyone want to influence positive emotions, and there are different ways of doing this. For example, you can try to suppress your emotions, or to minimise them or, of course, if desired, to intensify or create them. Completely suppressing your emotions is not recommended and is also extremely difficult. It works better if you give a new meaning to the situation triggering the emotion. If, for example, you’re something of a couch potato and are always plagued by negative emotions when you do sport, then next time try not to suppress these feelings, but to re-evaluate the situation. Why are you doing sport? What do you want to achieve? Try to call the positive aspects of sport to mind.
Emotions are usually accompanied by physical reactions. When you are afraid or nervous, your heart automatically starts beating faster. Breathing exercises or physical activity will help you to regulate your emotions in these situations.

A mindfulness exercise

A short meditation

For this exercise, you need to sit upright or stand up. Close your eyes and drop your gaze. Focus your attention on the following areas in turn:

  • Thoughts: what thoughts are going through your head? Are they certain images or phrases?
  • Feelings: what do you feel? Joy? Boredom? Stress?
  • Body: how does your body feel? Are you cold? Warm? Is your body tense or relaxed? Does it hurt anywhere?
  • Breath: observe your breathing. Be aware of the air flowing in and out.

During this exercise, make sure that you are aware of everything as it is right now, without wanting to change anything. Don’t judge anything and engage with the situation. This exercise is meant to last for 3-5 minutes. As a result, you can incorporate it very easily into your daily routine as a break.

«Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. »
- Thich Nhat Hanh -






Bosshardt, L., Bühler, G., Craviolini, J., & Hermann, M. (2020). Atlas der Emotionen. Die neue Gefühlslandkarte der Schweiz. Forschungsstelle sotomo im Auftrag von Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz. https://www.wie-gehts-dir.ch/assets/images/contentImages/Wie_gehts_dir_Atlas_der_Emotionen.pdf
Brandstätter, V., Schüler, J., Puca, R. M., & Lozo, L. (2013). Motivation und Emotion. Allgemeine Psychologie für Bachelor. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-30150-6
Gölzner, H. & Meyer, P. (Eds.). (2018). Emotionale Intelligenz in Organisationen. Der Schlüssel zum Wissenstransfer von angewandter Forschung in die praktische Umsetzung. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-19127-6_1
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