12 things emotionally mature people do
It turns out being the smartest person in the room isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
More and more, having a high level of emotional intelligence is being recognized as a key factor in determining your success in relationships and career, as well as your overall happiness. One long-term study even found that a high level of emotional maturity was more predictive of success than having a Mensa-tier IQ.
But how do you know if you’re emotionally intelligent?
What is emotional intelligence?
Being emotionally mature means having the ability to understand, reflect on and manage your emotions.
When you have emotional maturity, you’re able to manage your responses instead of making knee-jerk reactions. You can make sensible decisions even when it feels hard. Unfortunately, age isn’t always a reflection of emotional maturity. It comes with life experience as well as the willingness to learn and grow.
What is emotional maturity?
There’s no single definition of emotional maturity - meaning it can be difficult to recognize. But some of the traits that fall under the banner of 'emotionally mature things' include:
Awareness of your flaws and strengths
Empathy for others and their experiences
Ability to converse with people from different walks of life
Healthy emotional regulation (for example, you don’t lash out at others or yourself when you’re angry)
Motivated to delay gratifications, completing dull or difficult tasks with the knowledge it will pay off in the future.
How do you know if you’re emotionally mature?
Psychologist Cassandra Dunn talks us through these 12 signs of emotional maturity:
1. You cut people some slack
We all know people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Emotional maturity means realizing that each and every one of us is living in a crystal tower. No one is perfect, everyone has bad days and most people are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. It’s a sign of maturity when you can give people the benefit of the doubt and forgive their imperfections. Bonus points for letting go of old grudges and not giving any more of your energy to the people who’ve hurt you or let you down.
2. You stop caring so much about what people think of you
It’s not that any of us wants to be disliked, but with maturity you grow to accept that despite your best efforts, you still won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Rather than living your life based on other people’s opinions or preferences, or seeking anyone else’s approval, you accept yourself fully, act authentically and make decisions that work for you.
3. You stop blaming your parents for your problems
No matter how crappy your upbringing was, at some point we all need to take responsibility for our own lives and our happiness. If you’ve reached adulthood and are still blaming your parents for where you’re at in life, you might want to consider letting go of the past and focusing on your future.
If only everything was black and white and we could all continue to feel smug and superior knowing that our points of view were the only correct ones.
4. You’re aware of your impact on others
There are people who seem oblivious to the world around them. They talk loudly in the quiet train carriage (or play music so loudly you can hear their headphones from three rows back), stand in the middle of the escalator or talk over the top of you. They’re not great at reading facial expressions or cues that they’re being offensive. Emotional maturity means being conscious of how your behavior might be impacting others, and toning it back now and then to be polite.
5. You can handle criticism
Part of life is being on the receiving end of negative feedback. When you have emotional maturity, you’re able to take criticism on board and evaluate it objectively. A less mature person might be crushed by criticism or be so defensive they miss the opportunity to learn and grow. If you know you struggle with negative feedback, it might be a sign that you need to work on building a stronger sense of self-worth.
6. You learn to set boundaries
If you’re seeking approval and validation by saying yes to every request (at the expense of what you want or need), it’s time to practice setting some healthy boundaries. This means learning to say no without apology and being OK with the possibility you might upset someone. Remember – your needs matter, too.
7. You let go of the small stuff
Letting your mood be hijacked by minor irritations and inconveniences is a choice you make. Eventually, you learn to pick your battles and rise above the daily hassles that have the potential to keep you in a permanent bad mood. Learning to pause, take a breath and make a conscious choice about your next step before reacting emotionally is a skill we should all be cultivating.
Need a hand letting go? Tune in to French philosopher Fabrice Midal and his podcasts, only on Centr.
8. You’re willing to have hard conversations
Whether it’s giving someone tough feedback, ending a relationship or just letting someone know they’ve upset you, we all tend to try to find a way out of awkward or confronting conversations. Learning to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings and be honest with people even when it’s not pleasant is a real marker of maturity and integrity.
9. You realize there are shades of gray
If only everything was black and white and we could all continue to feel smug and superior knowing that our points of view were the only correct ones. At some point, the emotionally mature person has to have their self-righteous bubble burst with the realization that there are almost always shades of gray. We begin to accept that sometimes views that differ from our own have some validity (yes, really!) Even if you will never completely agree on a topic, you can learn to respect other people’s rights to hold and express opinions that conflict with your own.
Eventually, you learn to pick your battles and rise above the daily hassles that have the potential to keep you in a permanent bad mood.
10. You’re comfortable saying sorry
Owning up to your mistakes, apologizing when you’ve hurt someone and admitting when you’re wrong are all signs that you have enough self-worth that it won’t be diminished by acknowledging your shortcomings. After all none of us are perfect! If you stubbornly refuse to apologize or insist that someone else make the first move, you may have some growing to do.
11. You know that vulnerability isn’t weakness
This is a big one. At some point in our lives, we realize that showing emotion, admitting we are struggling and asking for help are not signs of weakness but acts of courage. Knowing it mentally is one thing, but going one step further and actually applying it is next-level maturity.
12. You’re ok with being alone
Whether it’s spending a weekend in your own company or being happily single when everyone else is coupled up, it’s the sign of a healthy emotional life to not always be dependent on others for your happiness. Learn to appreciate solitude as much as you enjoy company.
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