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Friday Wellbeing


Are your temper tantrums hurting your relationships? How to become emotionally mature

Emotionally immature people are unable to address conflicts…

Emotional immaturity has many manifestations, including the refusal to see someone else's point of view, quick reactions and emotional outbursts.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

What’s wrong with a tantrum or two? Surely, your friends love you enough to handle it.


These little ‘tantrums’ are part of a more serious problem: A sign of emotional immaturity. “It’s exhausting, and I honestly cannot talk to people who react to the most irrelevant issues and then expect you to forget about it,” explains Asavi Usgaonkar, a Dubai-based freelancing content strategist. She cites the entire range of emotionally immature behavioural patterns that she has witnessed over the years: A close friend upset because no one planned a proper “theme” for her birthday, to the point where everyone had to mollify her. “I mean, there was food and cake, and everything else had been planned,” recalls Usgaonkar. In another instance, a colleague stormed out of the office in tears because she couldn’t keep to a deadline, and the manager reprimanded her.

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On the other hand, Jocelyn Flynn, an American expat and currently a homemaker “sheepishly” admits that she “ghosts” her friends after an argument for a while, instead of addressing the problem. “I’m not good at sorting things out, so I guess that I just leave it to them,” she says. “Perhaps, I’m not the most mature person when it comes to dealing with people.”

However, emotional immaturity and maturity might be a lot more complex than we believe.


Maturity versus immaturity

As Diana Matthews, an American clinical psychologist summarises, emotional maturity is the ability to manage your emotions effectively and navigate life's challenges in a healthy manner. It's not about suppressing emotions, but rather understanding them, expressing them constructively, and using them to guide your behaviour. “It’s about being aware of your own emotional responses, thoughts and triggers, as well as being empathetic to others. When you make mistakes, you take accountability, rather than blame them on others,” she says. The path to emotional maturity is an ongoing process, and an understanding, rather than just a blanket concept that one absorbs in one go. No one just wakes up with emotionally mature traits; it’s not a checkbox, she says. 

However, emotional immaturity paints a different picture. It is the inability to manage your emotions effectively, resulting in a range of behavioural patterns that have negative effects on the person themselves, and the people around them.

‘They are stuck at a particular age’

An emotionally immature person would prefer to just move on, brush problems under the carpet, and hope for a quick fix.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Emotional immaturity comprises a vast range of complex behavioural patterns. “The person might have grown older physically, but mentally, they could be ‘stuck’ at a particular age. So, they could behave in an entire range of ways: Insensitive to other people’s feelings, trapped in rather rigid thinking patterns where they see everything in black and white,” says Matthews. 

They might also be preoccupied with thoughts of only themselves, and are impulsive with their actions and feelings, adds Ritasha Varsani, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist.  "Such people focus primarily on their own needs, often at the expense of others. They may find it hard to compromise and empathise with others, struggling to manage emotions such as sadness, anger, or frustration. This results in outbursts. For instance, they might refuse to watch a movie you're interested in or visit a restaurant you like simply because they are not interested," she adds.


Most of these traits usually manifest into one common thread: The inability to actually address conflicts. “Such a person would prefer to just move on, brush problems under the carpet, and hope for a quick fix. They avoid being in touch with their emotions,” says Matthews. They don’t intend harm, yet, this behaviour is what can further fracture a relationship. Neither do they want to seek help: They believe that they have all the answers.

Emotionally immature people focus primarily on their own needs, often at the expense of others. They may find it hard to compromise and empathise with others, struggling to manage emotions such as sadness, anger, or frustration. They have frequent emotional outbursts. For instance, they might refuse to watch a movie you're interested in or visit a restaurant you like simply because they are not interested...

- Ritasha Varsani, clinical psychologist

While everyone may exhibit these traits occasionally, persistent patterns are strong indicators of emotional immaturity, adds Varsani. These behaviours can be difficult to spot initially, but as you engage in relationships or observe their behaviour over time and across different situations, their lack of emotional maturity becomes more apparent. And sometimes, they can even engage in lying, deceit, as they know something is off with their reasoning and would want to present a different version of their reality. 

Melinda Hayley (name changed on request), a Dubai-based American expat and teacher recalls how she dealt with an emotionally immature partner for two years. “He would make the rashest decisions without ever consulting me, like randomly quitting his job on a whim because he ‘wanted to do something that means something’. It was as vague as it sounds, because he, himself, had no idea. He tried starting business, but didn’t know how, so he would get into a fight with every potential investor,” she says.

It became even difficult to argue with him, because after every fight, he would say that “it’s over and done” and there was no point talking about it. “After I ended the relationship with him, the final, last straw was him asking whether we could be friends and talk normally. He thought it would take only three weeks to ‘get over it’,” she remembers.


If you think that it takes two weeks to recover from a three-year relationship, then you have another think coming, concludes Hayley.

The repercussions of dealing with emotionally immature people

Emotional immaturity hinders the ability to learn from mistakes, to change, and so they will miss more professional opportunities ,feeling further ‘stuck’ than before.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

It can be irritating, nerve-wracking and you just feel as if you’re talking to a wall sometimes. Unintentionally albeit sometimes, it seems like a form of bullying, explains Monica Mathijs, a Dubai-based emotional intelligence practitioner. 

“You need to first acknowledge how you feel,” explains Matthews. Every conversation feels one-sided, and whatever you suggest is ignored or discounted. “It becomes emotionally draining, and finally, you don’t wish to have a conversation at all with them. You prefer to just walk out, as that’s simpler than actually dealing with the unsavoury behavour,” she says. As such emotionally immature behaviour has many patterns, it also includes gaslighting: So, you might be questioning your reality, as the person would be convinced that they haven’t done anything wrong.

There’s a wide range of repercussions for such behaviour, including broken relationships. People might see the person as unreliable, and would keep a safe distance. Worse, these kind of behavioural patterns that include emotional inflexibility, outbursts at work, can disrupt the career progression, adds Matthews. “The person will find it hard to take feedback, and even get along with colleagues. So, this would create a rather stressful atmosphere,” she says. Moreover, emotional immaturity hinders the ability to learn from mistakes, to change, and so they will miss more professional opportunities, feeling further ‘stuck’ than before.


The enablers and appeasement

Don't try to enable an emotionally immature person: You're just making things worse for yourself, and for them.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Understanding what causes such responses in people or in yourself, for that matter, helps in personal growth, as Matthews explains. At the forefront of such explanations are childhood trauma, emotionally unavailable parents, and a person’s own understanding of failure that contribute to these traits becoming a part of their personality. However, another reason that’s not often discussed, is the appeasement by parents and friends. 

“Many a time, we enable such patterns, because we don’t want to ‘create more drama’, for ourselves. We also don’t want more unpleasantness. So, we’ll appease them, mollify them, which enables this behaviour, rather than actually pointing out what’s wrong or how to rectify it. A person, who has many emotionally immature patterns won’t grow unless someone lets them know that they’re in danger of losing people around them,” she says. This can mostly be done on the personal front, or else they’ll damage their reputation in the workplace, as no one will be able to delve deep into their emotional outbursts then.

So, for example, a person who has grown up believing that having emotional outbursts is a way of getting attention - will continue to believe that, because no one wanted to explain otherwise. If you are dealing with such a person, you need to let them know where they’re going wrong, rather than let it slide.

Nevertheless, as psychologists warn, being emotionally immature isn’t a life sentence. With self-awareness and effort, you can develop healthier emotional responses and improve your overall well-being.


How to deal with emotionally immature people

No doubt, it takes a toll on you. Identify what is triggering you about the person. Negativity? Jibes? Yelling matches?

How willing are you to go into conversation with such a person, asks Mathijs. "If you are, you need to engage in non-violent communication with them. Tell them calmly that 'you did this...'," she says. This can put them in a position to reflect, and introspect on the harm that they are causing, she adds. They need to realise, that by behaving in such a manner, they are losing people close to them. And so, you need to establish strong boundaries.

If the behaviour continues, show that there will be consequences, says Matthews. Remove yourself from the situation, or limit contact. If the person continues to be toxic, you can just walk away. Protect yourself, first.

You can also see what battles to pick: Not every argument demands a fight, say the psychologists. “When they express themselves, truly listen without interrupting. Try to understand their perspective, even if you disagree,” says Matthews. Don’t take responsibility for them, and don’t clean up their messes, warn their psychologists. You’re just enabling them, otherwise.

How to deal with issues if you’re an emotionally immature person

Once you acknowledge that you might be emotionally immature and need to salvage relationships, you need to remember to be kind to yourself, says Matthews. It is a process and something that needs to be worked at every day. “So, you have to understand your emotions. You need to know what triggers you, and why you react in such a manner. Turn that into an advantage, instead of hitting back the moment something upsets you. Understand what makes you uncomfortable,” she explains.


Emotional maturity is about allowing yourself to be vulnerable, without hurting yourself or others around you, she adds. You’ll communicate better and have healthier relationships. So, see how you can accept mistakes, be a better listener and develop firmer boundaries with those around you. “Stop looking back at your failures and shortcomings,” the psychologists warn.