A Q&A with researcher Marc Brackett about how to cultivate emotional intelligence in ourselves and our kids.

Many of us get the message that our emotions are not OK. If we are angry, we are told to calm down; if we are sad, we are told to get over it. So, we end up repressing our emotions or pushing them away, making us feel inauthentic, unmotivated, depressed, or worse.

According to Marc Brackett, founder of Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence and author of the new book Permission to Feel, this is a terrible mistake. Our emotions are important clues to how we are experiencing the world, helping us make decisions, build good relationships, fulfill our dreams, and cultivate well-being.

Brackett says we need to encourage more emotional expression—not less—and that we should teach emotion skills to people starting from a young age. To that end, he’s led the development of an emotion skills-building program called RULER that aims to increase children’s ability to recognize emotions in themselves and others, understand where their emotions come from, label emotions more precisely, express emotions in different contexts, and regulate (or manage) emotions more effectively. To date, RULER has been taught in nearly 2,000 schools across the United States, helping children improve their ability to learn, form relationships, and find success in life.

Brackett was inspired to do this work after he suffered from childhood bullying. His book charts his own personal story while providing a primer on the growing science of emotion and encouraging readers to work toward increasing their own emotional intelligence. I spoke to him recently about his book and its message.
How to Become a Scientist of Your Own Emotions
 — Marc Brackett & Jill Suttie