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14 ways to be more emotionally mature

Posted October 26

In this edition of LIFEadvice, coach Kim Giles shares tips on how to become more emotionally mature and how to know if you aren't. (Deseret Photo)

Question:

My mother is extremely dramatic and easy to offend. She creates drama and problems in our family all the time because she handles things so immaturely. I can see that in some ways I’m starting to become like her too. But I’ve watched this my whole life and I don’t want to behave that way? How can I break the cycle and learn to handle life better than she does?

Answer:

You are talking about being an emotional mature person who responds to life appropriately with strength and wisdom. Some people were lucky enough to have emotionally mature parents who taught them how to see situations accurately, process emotions logically and respond maturely, but it sounds like you didn’t get that, so you will have to find better tools, skills and techniques to help you break the cycle.

Your mother is doing the best she can with what she knows though, she just doesn’t know a better way to handle herself. She is running on autopilot with her subconscious programming running the show.

Neuroscientists tell us that we make 95 percent of our choices subconsciously. This means most of the time instead of consciously choosing our behavior, we are just unconsciously reacting. The scary part is that most of our reactions come from ideas, conclusions, procedures and rules we learned before we were 7 years old. They say from 0 to 7 are the formative years where we set our beliefs about ourselves, people and life. Then the rest of our lives we can react the way we learned as a child.

You can break the cycle of immature behavior, though, and learn how to respond more accurately and appropriately. You can develop what we call clarity (the ability to see yourself, other people and situations accurately). You can gain better techniques, tools and skills in the area of human behavior, but you might need some professional help to get you there.

You can download an Emotional Maturity Test on my website to see where you are and what skills you need to become more mature.

Here are 10 ways to strengthen your emotional maturity:

  1. Practice a pause. Pause before you respond to any situation. Let go of your first emotional response and ask yourself, “Are there any other options, which might produce better results than this first reaction will? Put your options on paper and think through what each one will create and if that is what you want.
  2. Remember we all have the same value. Work on being less judgmental and remind yourself that everyone is in a different class (in the classroom of life) than you are, but we all have the same intrinsic worth.
  3. Practice putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Figure out what they are afraid of and see how fear is driving their behavior and what they need to feel safe. If you can give reassurance or validation first to quiet their fears, the rest of the interaction will go better.
  4. Let go of your need to be right. It is very immature to need to win every argument. Practice agreeing to disagree and not needing to have the last word.
  5. Be more flexible. When you don’t get your way, you react from a fear of loss, which is selfish and controlling. Whenever you are overly attached to your expectations, you are setting yourself up to suffer. Be more willing to trust the universe that whatever experience it brings, it is here to serve you in some way. Go with the flow more often.
  6. Choose gratitude. In every moment of your life there will be things to complain about, but even more to be grateful for. Your mood depends on where you focus. Choose to focus on what’s right more than what’s wrong.
  7. Be quick to apologize for any bad behavior. The more real, authentic and vulnerable you are, the better your connections with others will be. Don’t try to look perfect, it pushes people away from you. People want to know you’re flawed and genuine — they feel safer with you if you are.
  8. Work on your self-esteem and how you value yourself. This is the most important thing you can do for better relationships, because fear of failure creates such immature behavior. Choose to see your intrinsic value (and everyone else’s) as unchangeable and equal, because life is a classroom, not a test.
  9. Be committed to personal growth. Accept that you will always have more to learn. Be open and teachable in every moment. The universe is constantly conspiring to educate you. When you see every experience as a lesson, you show up wiser and more mature.
  10. Handle disappointments with grace. Life is going to disappoint you, and often. Get used to it. Choose to trust that there is a reason for every experience and that the universe knows what it’s doing. The less you resist “what is” the less you will suffer.
  11. Be more personally responsible. Whatever situations you are experiencing in your life, at some level you are responsible for them. You may be a victim to some degree, but are you now choosing to stay there? When you own responsibility, you also own the power to change things. If you are a victim of circumstance, you are powerless. Claim the power to create something different in your life.
  12. Be a thinker, not a reactor. Nathaniel Branden wrote an amazing book called "The Psychology of Self-Esteem." In his book he explains that as human beings we are destined to be thinkers, not instinctive reactors. When we react without thinking, with little awareness of others, or from a place of fear, we will end up hating ourselves. He believes it is only when we gain control of ourselves and our emotions and learn to think through situations and respond rationally that we like ourselves.
  13. Practice basing behavior on principles, not emotions. Braden says psychological maturity is the ability to think about principles, not emotions. Psychological immaturity is being overtaken with emotion and losing sight of the bigger picture. He says, “Only if we have a rational approach to our emotions can we be free of paralyzing self-doubt, depression and fear.” You may need to sit down and put on paper what your values and principles are and how you are going to live them.
  14. Create new healthy policies and procedures. In my book Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness, at the end of every chapter you are asked to write a personal policy (principle) or a procedure (process) that will help you respond to situations more logically and maturely. You have to write a policy about and how your value is determined, a procedure for handling situations when someone offends you and a process to run through in your mind to help you calm down when upset (and many more). The first step to more mature behavior is to change your personal policies and beliefs.
Don't be discouraged if this feels difficult to do at first. Many of my clients initially feel it is impossible to change, but I promise: You can do it. It just takes education and a lot of practice.

Set a small goal to work on one aspect of your emotional maturity each week. Put a reminder (as your wallpaper on your phone) to remind you. If you work on it one piece at a time, you will get there. I also recommend you find a coach or counsellor to help, though. A little professional guidance goes a long way.

You can do this.

Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.

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