We can say that there are two types of adults – those who are emotionally mature and those who are emotionally immature. You may be reading this article because someone has suggested that you’re emotionally immature and you would like to make a change. Or perhaps you suspect that your partner is not as mature as you thought, and you’re wondering what to do next.
We could add a third type of adult to the mix – those who are working towards personal growth, development, and maturity because they recognize immaturity in their thoughts and behavior.
However, recognizing your lack of maturity and committing to working on it is quite a mature thing to do, so this type of adult may not be as emotionally immature as one might think.
In this article, we’ll help you recognize the signs of emotional maturity. When you understand the signs, you will be equipped to recognize emotional immaturity both in yourself and others. If you recognize it in yourself, the good news is that we’ll offer some tips on how to become more mature later in this article.
We’ll also include some tips and advice on dealing with emotionally immature people, so you will know what to do next time you find yourself confronted with an immature friend or romantic partner.
What are the signs of emotional immaturity?
Emotional immaturity is easy to spot in some people. Narcissists – extremely self-absorbed people who lack empathy, blame others for their shortcomings, and even emotionally manipulate others – often struggle with emotional immaturity.
Reluctance (or inability) to talk about deeper feelings
Emotionally immature people tend to avoid conversations that involve an honest, deep look within one’s feelings and emotions. They may struggle with emotional authenticity because they are not familiar enough with their authentic selves, or they may find their emotions too confusing or overwhelming to fully process, so they keep them buried.
Due to their reluctance to go deep, emotionally immature people will try to keep the topic of conversation somewhat shallow or at surface level, even if you’re in a close relationship with them.
Instead of opening up and becoming vulnerable, they might laugh at what you’re saying or dismiss that there is an issue that needs to be spoken about. They might find some distraction, such as having to go to the shop or fix the car, even though they showed no signs of being interested in those things just before you brought up the conversation.
Blame and lack of responsibility
An emotionally immature person typically avoids taking responsibility for things that have gone wrong, even if the responsibility is theirs to take. They are likely to blame others for this or that and suggest that if another person had done things differently, they would not have messed up.
This person might also blame life or the cards they’ve been dealt for their current circumstances yet do nothing to make a change in their lives. Blame of others is a common trait among narcissists and young children and is a defining characteristic of emotional immaturity.
Taking things personally
Emotionally immature people are usually self-centered, they think everything is about them and take the opinions and perspectives of others personally. As such, an emotionally immature person might be easily offended or upset when a friend or partner tells them they want space.
For example, suppose your partner is emotionally immature. In that case, they might view your request for space or privacy as a personal attack and a comment on the quality of the relationship, rather than respecting your decision and viewing the relationship as a team, requiring team effort and respect for each other’s wishes.
Types of emotionally immature people
Emotionally immature coworkers
At work, you can spot emotionally immature people by the way they speak to and about others. An emotionally immature coworker often gossips about others in the office.
They might complain about the boss or the amount of work they have to do even when everyone is in the same position, and the boss has been completely fair. Their lack of empathy for the subject of the gossip and their aversion to doing hard work are both signs of emotional immaturity.
Emotionally immature romantic partners
In relationships, an emotionally immature partner does not view or treat the relationship as equal. They may be overly reliant on their partner for what to do, or they might be entirely dismissive of their partner’s feelings and not take their wants and needs into consideration when making decisions.
If your partner is emotionally immature, they won’t be easy to talk to in times of conflict. When you bring up an issue, they might quickly dismiss that there is anything wrong. If they feel like there’s a problem, and if they’re angry or upset with you, they won’t address the issue directly.
Instead, they’ll think that everything is fine, but inside they’re seething. Their unexpressed emotions manifest as passive-aggressive behavior, which can make you feel confused and uncomfortable and take a significant toll on your mental health.
Emotionally immature parents
Emotionally immature parents can be a nightmare to grow up with. They are characteristically rigid in their rules and narrow-minded in their perspectives. Like the typical immature person, emotionally immature parents will avoid taking responsibility for when things go wrong and may blame other family members.
These parents may not have developed the level of emotional maturity required to fully accept and process difficult feelings, a hallmark trait of emotional maturity. As such, they may teach their children that some feelings are ‘bad’ or taboo, making it difficult for them to process their feelings and emotions, even when they become adults.
Is emotional immaturity a mental health disorder?
A lack of emotional maturity is not always a sign of an underlying mental health condition. Still, it may be a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder – a condition in which the sufferer experiences a grandiose sense of self and a distinct lack of empathy for others.
Emotional immaturity is also a symptom of immature personality disorder – a condition in which a person uses age-inappropriate coping and defense mechanisms when confronted with stress, to which they have a low tolerance. People with an immature personality disorder also struggle to accept personal responsibility.
How to deal with emotionally immature people
Living or working with emotionally immature people can be exhausting. If you find yourself amongst the emotionally immature, you might also find yourself wishing you were somewhere else or fantasizing about how things would or could be if only the person you were dealing with would grow up, accept responsibility, and be open to having a healthy, mature conversation.
Of course, we can’t change other people, so when we find ourselves in a difficult situation as a result of another person’s immaturity, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to change our behavior. That doesn’t mean stooping down to the other person’s level or moving to a new city or country just to get away from them.
However, it does mean that you let them know what you will and will not tolerate in your life. To effectively let your partner, coworker, or parent know that you’ve had enough of their behavior and that you won’t put up with it any longer, it’s important to set some firm boundaries.
Boundaries are a means of protecting your mental and emotional health from the potential damage caused by other people’s energy and behavior.
For example, if you find that your partner is emotionally immature, bring your attention to a specific behavior that’s bothering you. Suppose they avoid important and emotional conversations all the time, leaving you in the dark about what’s going on between the two of you.
In that case, you could set a boundary by letting them know if they don’t commit to having a mature, healthy, and adult conversation with you, you’re going to walk away. You might tell them that you’re going to take a break from the relationship or put some physical distance between you.
It’s important to let them know why you’re setting the boundary, as this will help them be mindful of how not to cross it. If they do cross your boundary by continuing to avoid mature conversation, then follow through with the consequences.
Let them know how you feel
One of the traits of emotional immaturity is a lack of consideration for others. The person is usually so caught up in their own world that they may not see how their behavior is affecting those around them. If you have an emotionally immature person in your life, don’t hesitate to let them know what you think and how you feel.
They might have a poor reaction to hearing that you think they’re emotionally immature, but letting them know what you think may just be the wake-up call they need to make a change.
How can I become emotionally mature?
We all grow at our own pace. Some of us gain emotional maturity sooner than others, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never achieve it. If you want to become emotionally mature, you may have recognized that your past behavior was selfish or causing problems within your relationships or at work.
If you’re reading this with the intent to improve your emotional maturity, then you’re on the right track. One of the first steps in gaining the emotional maturity you seek is to be proactive about it. Below we have outlined some useful advice to help you take a more mature and adult approach to life and potentially save your relationships in the process.
Learn to recognize and accept your emotions
‘Do not ignore your emotions,’ writes Charlotte Maloney, author of Emotional Maturity: Discover How to Control Your Emotions and Be More Mature. ‘Instead, recognize them, step back to make sure they are not overpowering your ability to act, and determine how you can channel them to act productively. If you can do this, you will become a master of emotional maturity.’
An inability to recognize, accept and move through rather than away from one’s emotions is a sign of emotional maturity. Often, when relationships go awry as a result of emotional immaturity, it is because the mature partner has grown tired of the immature partner’s frequent avoidance of authentic, emotional conversation.
Naturally, we crave emotional intimacy and connection in our relationships, so if one partner fails to offer that to the other, the relationship is in jeopardy.
Recognizing and accepting your emotions isn’t always easy, especially if you’re used to suppressing or avoiding them, but it does become easier with practice. To get started, try writing how you feel in a personal journal.
You don’t have to show your writing to anyone – the important thing is that you do the inner work and reflect on what you’re feeling. When you’re ready, take what you’ve learned about yourself and apply it when your partner comes to you with a desire to have a deep and honest conversation. You can even refer to a feeling wheel whenever you get stuck.
Improve your listening skills
A hallmark sign of emotional maturity is the ability to listen without judgment to the perspectives and opinions of others. Very often, in conversation, we tend to react rather than respond. We listen for a brief moment, but as soon as we think of a reply, that’s all we focus on until the other person has finished speaking.
Emotionally mature people hold off on forming the ‘perfect reply’ until they have fully listened to, considered, and understood what the other person in the conversation has said. If they don’t fully understand, they’ll ask for clarification.
Good listening is not just about waiting until the other person has told you something that’s bothering them or how they feel. It’s about reading their behavior, their tone of voice, their body language, and even their silence, and asking with genuine curiosity and compassion about how they are and what they need at that moment.
If you can bring this quality of listening to your relationships, you’re likely to delight your partner, coworker, or your children with a newfound sense of respect and acknowledgment.
Though we all grow and mature at our own pace, staying in emotional immaturity for too long has a detrimental effect on all aspects of our life, from our goals and dreams to our careers and to our relationships. Waking up to your emotionally immature behavior is key in improving your life overall and finally taking control.
If you consider yourself mature, but you’re dealing with an immature person, consider how much of an impact that person is having in your life. If you find that they’re jeopardizing your mental health and well-being, then it’s important to consider seeking professional help, advising them to do so, or simply setting firm and reasonable boundaries in place to stay healthy.