13 Skills to Change Emotions and Master Emotional Intelligence



“Use pain as a stepping stone, not a camp ground.” —- Alan Cohen

This is a hard-core post that walks you through several skills that you can use to master your emotional intelligence.

Rather than let other people or situations push your buttons, you can take control.

In the book, Awaken the Giant Within:  How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny, Tony Robbins shares skills and techniques you can develop to master emotional intelligence.

Expand Your Emotional Banquet

In a typical week, people might feel a dozen emotions:

Stressed out, Frustrated, Angry, Insecure, Lonely, Bored, Miserable, Happy, Relieved, Loved, Excited, Joyous.

Tony Robbins suggests we miss out on the myriad of possibilities, and challenges us to sample more from the whole buffet:

Boldness, Capability, Cheerfulness, Consideration, Creativity, Curiosity, Confidence, Desire, Enchantment, Enthusiasm, Fascination, Gentleness, Gratitude, Humor, Intrigue, Kindness, Outrageousness, Playfulness, Sensuality.

And, you can always come up with a long list of your own.

Your Repertoire of Emotional Skills

There are several skills you can use to master emotional intelligence.   This is an enumeration so that you get a big picture view on the tools and techniques at your disposal.

Via Awaken the Giant Within:

  1. Beliefs – Beliefs can give us a sense of certainty.  You can add emotion to your beliefs by adding new and more powerful references.  The more emotional the reference, the more intense the belief will be.
  2. Compelling Future – You can use goals to create energy and a sense of mission.  To do so, you need to develop bigger, more inspiring, more challenging goals.  As Robbins put is, “We all must discover or create a Magnificent Obsession.”
  3. Focus – You get more of what you focus on, and what you resist persists.  You can direct your attention to what you want to highlight more in your moments, in your life, and right now.
  4. Identity – If’s hard to be a happy or cheerful person if you don’t see yourself as one.  Whatever you call your identity, it’s simply what you’ve decided to identity with.  The core beliefs you have about your identity are the ultimate filter for all your perceptions.  If we decide to think, feel, and act as the kind of person we want to be, we will become that person.  We look at our actions to determine who we are.  You can change your actions to change your identity.  Thoughts are behaviors, too.
  5. Metaphors – You can think of metaphors as emotional picture words.  Metaphors can empower us by expanding and enriching our experience of life.  Unfortunately, though, if we’re not careful when we adopt a metaphor we also instantaneously adopt many limiting beliefs that come with it.
  6. Neuro-Associative Conditioning – You can create and condition your emotional state and how you feel.  According to Tony’s Law of Reinforcement, any pattern of emotion or behavior that is continually reinforced will become an automatic and conditioned response.  Anything we fail to reinforce will eventually dissipate.
  7. Physiology – You can make pleasure a habit. Your body leads your emotions.  The emotional state you’re in begins to affect your body and it becomes a sort of endless loop.  You can change any of your emotions by changing the way you use your body.  You can feel strong, you can smile, you can change anything in a minute just by laughing.  If you repeatedly use your body in weak ways, you’ll feel tired.
  8. Questions – Our questions determine our thoughts and our thoughts determine our feelings.  Questions direct our focus, and therefore how we think and how we feel.  By changing your questions, you change your focus.  If you want more joy, ask questions that help you focus more on the joy in your life.
  9. References – References are all the experiences of your life that you’ve recorded within your nervous system — everything you’ve ever seen, heard, touched, tasted, or smelled — stored away inside the giant cabinet of your brain.  Some references are picked up consciously or others unconsciously.  Some result from experiences you’ve had yourself while others consist of information you’ve heard from others.  The way we use our references will determine how we feel, because, whether something is good or bad is all based on what you’re comparing it to.  Sometimes we lose perspective that good and bad are merely based upon our references.  The most valuable thing that reference do for us is provide a feeling of certainty.  You can use your references and consciously interpret them in ways that empower and energize you.
  10. Rules – Rules are beliefs about what is good and what is bad, what we should do and what we must do.  Rules are our standards and criteria.  Rules are the triggering device of human emotion.  Your rules can make it very difficult to feel good, or very difficult to feel bad.  Most of us create numerous ways to feel bad, and only a few ways to feel truly good.   Our personal rules are the ultimate judge and jury.  They determine whether or not a certain value is met, whether we’ll feel good or bad, whether we’ll give ourselves pain our pleasure.   At the base of every emotional upset you’ve ever had with another human being is a rules upset.  So if you ever feel angry or upset with someone, remember, it’s your rules that are upsetting you, not their behavior.
  11. Sub-modalities – Our experience of the world is created by gathering information through the use of our senses.  We tend to develop a favorite mode of focus, or modality.  Within each of these modes of experience, there are specific elements of pictures, sounds or other sensations that can be changed in order to dial up or dial down the intensity of our experience.  Sub-modalities are these foundational ingredients of our experience.  Our ability to change the way we feel depends upon our ability to change our sub-modalities.
  12. Transformational Vocabulary – Transformational Vocabulary can allow us to intensify or diminish any emotional state, positive or negative.  This means it gives us the power to take the most negative feelings in our lives and lower their intensity to the point where they no longer bother us, and take the most positive experiences and move them to even greater heights of pleasure and empowerment.
  13. Values – Values are those things that are most important to you in your life.  Your values are the compass that is guiding you.   There are some emotional states that you’ll do more to achieve than others.  Some people value comfort over passion, or freedom over security, or intimacy over success.

Metaphor Examples

Metaphors are a quick way to shape how you perceive a situation.   They can quickly empower or limit how you respond in any given situation.  Here are some examples that show how metaphors can limit or enable us, and quickly change how we feel about any situation.

Via Awaken the Giant Within:
I’m at the end of my rope.
I can’t break through the wall.
My head is about to burst.
I’m at crossroads.
I struck out.
I’m floating on air.
I’m drowning.
I’m happy as a lark.
I’ve reached a dead end.
I’m carrying the world on my shoulders.
Life is a bowl of cherries.
Life is the pits.

For more on metaphors, see Use Metaphors to Find Your Motivation.

Neuro-Associative Conditioning

You can use Neuro-Associative Conditioning to condition a new habitual behavior or response.  Whether you want to change your thoughts or your feelings or your actions, you can use the same technique.

Here are the six steps of Neuro-Associative Conditioning per Tony Robbins.

Via Awaken the Giant Within:

  1. Decide what you really want and what’s preventing you from having it now.
  2. Get leverage: Associate massive pain to not changing now, and massive pleasure to the experience of changing now.
  3. Interrupt the limiting pattern.
  4. Create a new empowering alternative.
  5. Condition the pattern until it’s consistent.
  6. Test it.

Rules Examples

Tony Robbins has a simple way of creating a men of possibilities of ways to feel good.   Rather than a bunch of “If this, then that” rules, he uses “Anytime I …” to appreciate and embrace spending time in his values.  Here are some examples of Tony Robbins’ rules.

Via Awaken the Giant Within:

  • Achieving: Anytime I focus on the value of my life as already created; anytime I set an outcome and make it happen; anytime I learn anything or create value for myself or others.
  • Health and Vitality: Anytime I feel centered, powerful, or balanced; anytime I do anything that increases my strength, flexibility, or endurance; anytime I do anything that moves me toward a sense of physical well-being; anytime I eat water-rich foods or live in according with my own health philosophy.
  • Learning and Growing: Anytime I make a new distinction that’s useful; anytime I stretch myself beyond what was comfortable; anytime I think of a new possibility; anytime I expand or become more effective; anytime I apply anything I know in a positive way.
  • Love and Warmth: Anytime I’m being warm and supportive of my friends, family, or strangers; anytime I focus on how to help; anytime I’m loving toward myself; anytime my state of being enhances how other people feel.

As you can see, he gives himself more ways to experience and enjoy his values of Achieving, Health and Vitality, Learning and Growing, and Love and Warmth.

Sub-Modality Examples

You can change how you picture, hear, or feel things in any situation.  You can do so by tuning into how you are representing or interpreting the experience.  Here are some examples of sub-modalities, which are the building blocks of how we experience the world around us.

Via Awaken the Giant Within:

Is it a movie or a still frame?
Is it color or black and white?
Is the image bright, dim, or dark?
Is the image life-size, bigger, or smaller?
Is the image near or far from you?
Is the speed of the image fast, medium, or slow?

Are you saying something to yourself or hearing it from others?
What specifically do you say or hear?
How do you say or hear it?
how loud is it?
What is the tonality?
How fast is it?
Where is the sound coming from?

Was there a temperature change? Hot or cold?
Was there a texture change? Rough or smooth?
Is it rigid or flexible?
Is there vibration?
Was there an increase or decrease in pressure?
Was there an increase in tension or relaxation?

To see the effects, simply take any experience, and start to change some of the ingredients above.

Transformational Vocabulary

You can use your words to shape how you feel and the actions you take.  The words we consistently use affect the way we evaluate and therefore the way we think.  Tony Robbins shares a set of powerful, state-inducing words coined by Shakespeare, from the book Brush Up Your Shakespeare! by Michael Macrone.

Via Awaken the Giant Within:

To Champion
Money’s Worth
To Negotiate
To Perplex
To Puke
Puppy Dog
On Purpose
Shooting Star
To Sire
To Sneak
To Squabble
To Swagger
To Torture



You can change your values, or re-sequence or reprioritize your values.  This can have a profound effect on how you feel and how you find ways to spend more time in your values.

Here is a sampling of values:








Economic Security


Family Happiness





Inner Harmony





Personal Development









For more on Values see, Finding Your Values and Change Your Values, Change Your Life.

You have a lot of skills you can develop right at your fingertips.

It’s within you, and the power, the choice, and the tools are yours.

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Image by Utpal.