By Matt W. Sandford, LMHC
“Grow up!” people will say, usually when you are doing something that annoys them. But I wonder how skilled you are at actually identifying immaturity? I wonder this because of the frequency in which I encounter folks who have gotten into a relationship with someone and they can’t understand why the other person does what they do, or why they have the conflicts they do, or why the relationship is so on and off, or why they can’t seem to work some things out. And so I started to wonder if some ‘immaturity-spotting skills’ would be worthwhile. Let me offer a general concept and then flesh it out. Keep in mind, there are many ways to view maturity and this is just one perspective. Generally, we can find immaturity living on the edges of the continuum of some characteristic, meaning either too little or too much of something. Maturity is often developed through learning a balanced perspective. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather intended to get you thinking.
- Either too strongly opinionated or lacking an opinion.
The first type are those who may at first seem very confident and self assured, but over time you find out that what they really are is arrogant and controlling. The second type seem to be easy going or accommodating, but you later realize that they are passive and actually are manipulative by what they don’t say and what they avoid.
- Emotions are either not managed at all, or there is a lack of emotional connection and expression. Emotions have much to contribute to mature living, but when they are either given over to indiscriminately at all times, or if they are stuffed, then the result is immaturity and dysfunction.
- Either overly self centered or others centered. It’s probably obvious how being self centered is immature, but I bet you didn’t expect that you can be too others-centered. There is more to say on this, but for here I’ll point out that you can’t give well to others if you don’t take care of yourself.
- Being extremely rigid or overly flexible.
- Being too quick to judge or unable to make a judgment. Again, judgmentalness is likely obvious. But there also comes a time when we need to assess a situation and make a decision, or a judgment. When someone can’t or won’t follow through, there are signs of immaturity.
- Being overly busy and endlessly driven, or being unmotivated and lacking in drive or purpose.
- Being overly critical or overly accepting.
- Talking too much or talking too little. I realize these may fall under gender generalizations, but I’m not buying that. Anyone can be a blabber mouth and anyone can withdraw or withhold expression. This one is not so much about volume as it is about timing and situation. There is a time to shut up and a time to speak up. Maturity knows the difference.
- Being overly flattering.
- Lacking in the strength to delay gratification, or to restrain one’s appetites in the short term for the sake of gaining a long term goal.
- Lacking in integrity.
- Lacking in self awareness.
Something that I have not done is to spell out what maturity or immaturity looks like in a clear and obvious fashion. That is because the concept of maturity doesn’t work like that. Being able to spot maturity’s absence is really about discernment rather than some cut and dried list. But I think that the more we are attuned to looking for it, the more we hone the ability to identify it.
And I do know this. If you want to build a healthy and satisfying relationship, aim for finding a mature person – as well as work on your own maturity!
I will follow up with – What to Do if You’ve Already Married An Immature Person – so be on the lookout for it.
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