Human interaction is complex, no matter how you look at it. We’ve all experienced those moments when we reflect on a conversation with another person and wonder, “how did that even happen?” or “how did they get that from what I said?”
In concept, communication seems simple. If you’re nice to people, conversations should be mutually beneficial, interactions should be calm, and words should be honest. Right?
There was a time when this thinking ruled many of my interactions because kindness seemed like the sure way to prevent explosions, maintain calmness, and gain friendships.
However, if I’ve learned anything, the belief that “kindness trumps all” is far from the truth. In practice, there is so much more bubbling under the surface that goes unseen until conflict rears its ugly head. ( I wrote about why people are mean a while back that explains why being kind isn’t the foundation to prevent conflict)
I believe emotional maturity is the only way to ensure a calm, mutually beneficial conversation where solutions take prominence rather than insults.
Emotional maturity is a prerequisite for any connected relationship, and I will explain why.
Understanding and managing our feelings is an essential part of growing up emotionally. It helps us become better people, and it also helps us develop relationships that last.
However, many people don’t even fully grasp what emotional maturity is. So let’s talk about that.
What is Emotional Maturity?
Most of us understand maturity in the physical sense as it refers to a person reaching the final stages of growth. Still, the idea of emotional maturity might be a foreign one.
The American Psychological Association defines emotional maturity as “an appropriate level of emotional control and expression” and emotional immaturity as “a tendency to express emotions without restraint or disproportionately to the situation.”
Emotional maturity can be likened to physical maturity in that a particular set of standards is considered normal in the developmental process. Therefore, just as we measure physical maturity to what is age-appropriate, we do the same to measure emotional traits.
While we might find it emotionally “normal” for a child to throw a tantrum in a store, seeing an adult act this way would cause onlookers to stare in disbelief.
However, many grown-ass adults throw fits in other ways that society turns a blind eye to because of our lack of understanding about emotional maturity.
Don’t believe me? Go to any little league baseball tournament and see for yourself.
10 Qualities of Emotional Maturity
- Self-Awareness – Building a solid understanding of yourself & your feelings
- Self-Control – Recognizing emotions and not being controlled by them
- Accountability – Realizing that you are responsible for yourself and what you get out of life
- Humility – Having a modest view of oneself, no matter how many accolades you have
- Humanistic – The practice of seeing things outside of the self
- Vulnerability – Being open enough to share things that might make you a target for harm or attack
- Resilience – Recovering quickly from difficult situations
- Compassionate – Doing something to assuage the pain and suffering of another person
- Flexible – Able to adapt to different situations
- Empathetic – The ability to relate to others
5 Signs of Emotional Maturity
You Know Yourself.
We all have different ways of dealing with emotions. Some people tend to avoid conflict, while others seek it out. Some people are more comfortable expressing themselves through words, while others prefer to express themselves physically. Knowing yourself and understanding others will help you communicate effectively because you’ll gain clarity around what you feel & where those feelings stem from instead of projecting them on anyone else. The better you know yourself, the better you can tap into your bank of emotions and relate to what other people are going through, offering sound and genuine empathy. (To go a little deeper on this subject, I wrote an entire post on self awareness here)
You Understand Others.
It’s easy to understand what other people think when we share similar experiences. However, it’s much more challenging to understand other people’s feelings when their worldviews differ drastically from ours. Understanding others requires empathy. We must put ourselves in other people’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective. This helps you empathize with them and understand why they think the way they do. The important thing to remember here is that you don’t have to experience the same thing as someone else to pull from past experiences to find what connects you. You simply need to seek to understand them through genuine listening. (For more on the art of being a good listener, click here or for signs you might be a bad listener, click here).
You can be Honest with Yourself.
Honesty is an essential part of growing emotional maturity. Brushing over cold-hard truths makes it difficult for others to connect with us. In addition, honesty is a sign of respect for yourself. Being honest means you speak the truth even when it’s hard to do. Honesty is always better than having people like us for something we aren’t. One of the most overlooked areas of dishonesty in relationships is when we create narratives based on our emotions that are not founded on objectivity.
You accept Responsibly for your feelings and your actions.
It’s easy to blame others when things go wrong. Taking responsibility means accepting you are responsible for your actions and emotions. Nobody else can hold that kind of power over you, and that’s a good thing because it means you also hold power to change what you don’t like. You must take ownership of your feelings, emotions, and mistakes and never blame others.
You aren’t Self-Absorbed
Anytime we’re suffering, we’re being self-absorbed. In connection, there’s no suffering. Suffering disconnects people from each other because it’s centered on you (and only you). Too often, we add meaning to conflicts when they arise, disconnecting us from one another. If we can learn to separate the problem from the person, we can still find a connection in the face of adversity.
People who lack emotional maturity often feel entitled to other people’s emotions. They expect others to care about them and to make decisions based on what they think is right and have little regard for the perspectives of others. It is imperative to destroy this way of thinking if we ever want to have meaningful and connected relationships.