Self-Regulation | Self-Management

See also: Self-Awareness

Self-regulation or self-management is the second of the three key areas of personal skills that make up Emotional Intelligence.

Self-regulation is concerned with how you control and manage yourself and your emotions, inner resources, and abilities. It also includes your ability to manage your impulses.

Self-regulation also includes an element of taking responsibility for your own actions, and ensuring that what you do matches with your personal values.

Five Elements Make Up Self-Regulation

  1. Self-control;
  2. Trustworthiness;
  3. Conscientiousness;
  4. Adaptability; and
  5. Innovation.


Self-control is NOT masking or hiding your emotions but recognising and controlling them appropriately.

This means NOT making rash decisions or over-reacting to a situation but remaining calm and rational. It leads to being able to make balanced decisions based on what is really important, and not just how we feel at the time.

People who have good self-control generally remain calm even when stressed. They are able to think clearly under pressure and still make good decisions.

Self-control usually manifests itself as the absence of visible emotion.

See our page on Self-Control for more.

We have all reacted badly or inappropriately to events or situations in the past, and we will all do the same in the future.

Reflective practice, i.e. thinking back over such situations, enables us to analyse and understand why we acted in the way that we did, and this in turn can help us to behave more intelligently in the future. 

When reflecting it is useful to think of yourself in a positive way. Don’t think, ‘I have completely messed that up, I’m a failure’ but aim for something more positive, such as, ‘I can use those experiences to learn and become a better person’.

See our page: Reflective Practice for more information.

Trustworthiness and Conscientiousness

Trustworthiness and conscientiousness can be considered as two sides of the same coin, because both are about behaving ‘well’, in accordance with your personal values and code of ethics.

Trustworthiness is your ability to maintain your integrity, which means ensuring that what you do is consistent with your personal values. You may find it helpful to read our pages about Learning to use your Moral Compass for more about this.

People who are trustworthy act ethically.

They build trust through their personal actions, and the way that their actions are consistent with their espoused values. They are also prepared to confront unethical actions and take a stand when necessary, even if that stand will be unpopular.

Religious Values Not Essential!

Although many world religions have made trustworthiness a key value, religious views are not essential to acting ethically. The key is to ensure that you know and understand your core values, and that your actions are consistent with them.

For more about this, see our page on Living Ethically.

Conscientiousness is taking responsibility for your own personal performance, and making sure that it matches up to your ability and your values.

Daniel Goleman, author of several books on emotional intelligence, says that conscientious people:

  • Meet their commitments and keep their promises to others;
  • Take responsibility for setting and then achieving realistic objectives in their life and work; and
  • Are careful about their work, organising themselves to make sure that they can achieve it.

You may find our our pages on Setting Personal Goals. Organising Skills and Time Management useful.

Learn more about these issues on our page: Trustworthiness and Conscientiousness.


Adaptability was defined by Daniel Goleman as being flexible in responding to change.

Change is difficult for many of us to manage. Anyone who has had any close contact with children will recognise that change is unsettling and stressful for small children, and that being able to manage it is very much a learned skill. Without careful control and development of our personal adaptability and resilience, personal change can remain very stressful into adulthood.

However, by understanding what is happening, and developing our ability to manage change, it is possible to greet change as an adventure, rather than as a problem.

Adaptable people, those who have spent time developing their personal ability to manage and respond to change, tend to:

  • Be able to manage multiple demands on their time and energy, prioritising effectively, and accepting rapid change when necessary.
    See our Time Management page for more.
  • Adapt their responses and the way that they operate to fit different situations effectively; and
  • Be flexible in how they see events, being able to see multiple perspectives.
See our page on Managing Personal Change for more.


Innovation is being open to novel ideas and approaches.

Daniel Goleman said that innovative people:

  • Look for new ideas from a wide range of sources;
  • Are prepared to consider new ways of solving problems, even if that’s ‘not the way that we’ve always done it round here’;
  • Generate their own new ideas; and
  • Are prepared to see things from other perspectives, taking risks in their thinking.
See our page on Innovation Skills for more.

Personal Development

Personal development is concerned with our desire to become a better person by learning new skills and developing existing skills. It is a key part of both innovation and adaptability, because it is about being proactive and showing innovative, and learning new skills because we want to do so.

See our pages Personal Development and Personal Empowerment for more information.

An Essential Part of Emotional Intelligence

Learning to regulate and manage yourself, your emotions and your inner resources is a key stepping stone to good emotional intelligence.

Only those who understand and value themselves, and are able to draw on their own resources, will be able to relate fully and completely to others.

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Further Reading from Skills You Need

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Learn more about emotional intelligence and how to effectively manage personal relationships at home, at work and socially.

Our eBooks are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about or develop their interpersonal skills and are full of easy-to-follow, practical information.