Age brings wisdom, or so they say. However, that isn’t always the case, (sadly!). While many individuals do grow wiser with age, it’s essential to recognize that wisdom doesn’t simply come with the passing of years.
To spot emotional immaturity, pay close attention to the way people express themselves and listen out for these 9 telltale phrases.
1) “It’s not fair!”
As children, we have a strong sense and need for fairness.
When I was younger I briefly taught at a kindergarten in Nambia. I was amazed to see how important it was to the little ones to keep the same chair all day. Even though all the chairs were utterly identical!
Then a teacher came to visit the preschool and explained what was going on. At young ages, children are just starting to understand their sense of themselves as an individual. Asserting their sense of fairness and ownership is a very important stage for their personality development.
However, you and I (and your companions and colleagues!) are not children, and so we need to take responsibility for our own lives.
Many things in life aren’t fair, but complaining about them and adopting a victim mentality is generally not going to help us get forward in life. (Obviously, there are exceptions such as speaking out about discrimination and so on!)
As the hilarious author Mark Manson neatly puts it, things may not be our fault, but they are our responsibility to deal with. If you try to shift that on to another adult, we aren’t going to get very far.
2) “It wasn’t me” (when it actually was)
90’s kids like me will remember the hilarious song by Shaggy featuring RikRok, called “It Wasn’t Me”. For those who are unfamiliar the lyrics are about a guy (RikRok) who has been caught cheating by his girlfriend, and is turning to Shaggy for help.
Even though RikRok has been ‘caught red-handed’, his girlfriend literally catching him in the act, Shaggy repeatedly tells him to deny everything.
Despite what many people thought, this song was meant to be a parody of cheater mentality because it’s totally ridiculous for RikRok to deny his actions. At the end of the song, RikRok says:
“I’m going to tell her that I’m sorry for the pain that I’ve caused. I’ve been listening to your reasoning, it makes no sense at all.
“Going to tell her that I’m sorry for the pain that I’ve caused.
“You might think that you’re a player, but you’re completely lost.”
Shaggy, as an artist, was trying to highlight the immaturity of denying things that are your fault. And so, once again, we see the importance of taking responsibility for your actions.
Immature people will want to resist this and instead will end up making the situation worse by infuriating the person that they have wronged, and fail to learn from their mistakes.
3) “I don’t care”
Sometimes it’s good not to care too much about things, especially if they don’t matter that much. But oftentimes, people who say this out loud (and can’t you just hear the petulant tone of voice?), really do care, but can’t deal with it.
“Don’t care was made to care” is a phrase that comes back to me from my childhood, and whilst this retort might sound silly, there is wisdom there. People who declare they ‘don’t care’ are usually just not facing up to their feelings.
Instead of saying they don’t care, they would be better served by realizing why they are so triggered, and what they can do about it.
If they don’t, they might just find that all those repressed emotions come back to haunt them.
4) “……..” (aka stonewalling)
Perhaps the most frustrating of all responses (and harmful for your relationships) is the silent treatment. When another adult approaches us with a valid concern, if we simply ignore them and refuse to engage, this is a huge sign of immaturity.
And its also a sign of devaluing the other person and their reality, leaving them no way to communicate important things. It’s so detrimental to relationships that it often leads to breakups and divorce, and is proven to be harmful to people’s physical health.
The mature person will do their best to welcome (or at least respond!) to a perspective that someone else wants to offer, even if it feels challenging to do so.
5) “It’s my way or the highway”
I’m not sure if anyone actually says that anymore but you probably get the idea. Someone who declares that their way of doing things is the only correct one, and that they are not at all open to suggestions, is an immature person.
Inflexibility is not only annoying for other people – it also reduces a person’s chance to learn new ways of approaching things, and limits the outcome’s success.
An inability to collaborate or compromise shows a lack of emotional intelligence.
Mature people recognize there are often many valid perspectives and are open to input from others. While having conviction can be valuable, outright rejecting alternate views stunts personal growth.
6) “I’m just an angry/aggressive/selfish person”
When I last watched reality TV shows such as Big Brother or Love Island, I noticed a trend.
The (intentionally controversial) people chosen for the show would come on and proudly state their flaws as though the acknowledgment meant that they didn’t have any responsibility to try and change and become better. Like the artist Skunk Snansie, we might call this “Cheap Honesty.”
Reality TV editors pick these people for a reason. Sadly, many viewers enjoy seeing conflict, and these immature characters soon end up causing problems with other people.
They are selected for their immaturity and lack of perspective on themselves and how that affects others, to cause on-screen drama. For some this might make good TV, but it doesn’t bode well for real life!
7) “Snitches get stitches”
Having not spent time in prison(!) and not being a teenager, I’m not sure how often people actually say this one either. But the meaning is clear. If you tell someone in authority that a person is behaving badly, you are going to be disliked and perhaps physically hurt.
Bullying, violence and harassment are never okay. People who think that others should stay silent after receiving this kind of treatment, are perpetuating cycles of abuse, through maintaining childish ‘codes of honor’.
As with everything, there is a fine line. Not all situations relate to bullying or violence. And in these cases, it can be good to try and resolve a problem directly with the person, rather than seeking a higher authority.
But if this isn’t possible then we should always reach out to those who are in a position to help.
8) “Shut up!”
Shut up, (or worse!) is another phrase we may frequently hear from the mouths of children and teenagers. And while it can be okay to say this in jest, saying it seriously is an aggressive and immature way of trying to deal with problems.
As with other examples we have seen, when there is conflict, the mature person will listen to the other person’s point of view, and try to use empathy to resolve the problem.
This approach not only brings a better understanding but also encourages personal growth. Mature individuals understand that conflicts, when handled constructively, can lead to self-improvement and stronger relationships.
They embrace the idea that in disagreements, there is an opportunity for growth and the discovery of new insights.
9) “Your problems aren’t as bad as [insert tragic thing here]”
This is an even more insidious problem than telling people to ‘shut up’, since most of us instinctively know that saying ‘shut up’ is wrong.
However many people will diminish the problems of others when they are adults. And therefore not understanding that this type of statement is a very unhelpful thing to say.
While it’s objectively true that feeling low because you didn’t get a promotion (or whatever) isn’t as bad as someone starving due to poverty, this is an immature thing to say.
But why is that?
It’s because everyone’s pain and suffering is valid and authentic, and to deny someone their feelings can be hurtful and add guilt and shame to an already sad person. There’s a name for this kind of talk in psychology and it’s known as ‘toxic positivity’.
Not only can it make an already down person feel worse, but it also cuts off the possibility of a healing interaction. Saying things like this is a sign of a person without much perspective on the world.
Some final thoughts about immaturity and perspective
While gaining maturity is a lifelong process for all of us, we should remember that some people face additional challenges. For example, autistic individuals may communicate or empathize differently due to neurodiversity. And these differences should be met with understanding, not judgment.
With compassion and communication, we can nurture growth in ourselves and others.
Our goal should be to expand our perspectives through education and by trying to walk in another’s shoes. However, change takes time. Meeting people where they are with patience and openness creates connection.
All of us have room for improvement. And by accompanying others on their journey, we travel further together!