When I’m interviewing for senior roles, I look for emotional maturity in candidates. An emotionally mature person is easy to deal with. They don’t fly off the handle easily; they aren’t shocked by criticism.
They are stable and a joy to be around.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have much perspective on our own level of maturity. It’s hard to judge when you’re living in your own skin.
Here are some ways to spot immature people:
They don’t take responsibility
One of the key characteristics of emotional maturity is that you take responsibility for your own life. As soon as you hear someone framing themselves as a victim, you know they’re on the wrong path. Victim language sounds like this:
- Why are employees such idiots!?
- My franchisor makes it impossible for me to succeed!
- The reason I can never win is that the economy is bad
- My negative attitude is due to the fact that I work with a jerk
- No wonder I’m an alcoholic; you should see who my parents are
Are these statements wrong? Well, probably some of them are. But some are accurately pointing out a real problem.
Employees can be challenging; franchisee/franchisor relationships are tricky; the economy may be bad, you may work with a jerk and your parents are… dysfunctional to put it mildly.
However, the mature person realizes that they are the only ones who can do anything about these situations, and they frame them differently. They take responsibility for coming up with solutions to make things better.
Here’s how an emotionally mature person frames these victim statements:
- How can we build an engaged team?
- How can I improve my relationship with my franchisor?
- How can I succeed in spite of a downturn in the economy?
- How can I build boundaries so the jerk I work with leaves me alone?
- How can I stop the cycle of alcoholism modeled by my parents?
In short, emotionally mature people take responsibility for their lives; they never assume the role of the victim.
They can only see things from their perspective
This is why they are shocked and enraged when criticized. They’re unable or unwilling to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and see situations from another point of view.
The emotionally mature person is good at considering all points of view, and recognizing that they aren’t perfect either, and may be part of the problem, not part of the solution.
The mature person cares about what’s right, not who’s right.
They lash out when the pressure is on
It’s easy to be cool and calm when things are going well. When there’s money in the bank and your relationships are on an even keel.
When things are going badly, this radically changes for the immature person. Money is tight, there’s friction with a supplier or an employee, and suddenly you see a very different side of them.
They blow up or make excuses or tell lies or are just awful to be around. The real you comes out when the pressure is on, not when everything is going along nicely.
Here’s a good way to measure your own maturity level. Ask yourself:
How much stress can I tolerate before acting out inappropriately to myself or others?
The more mature you are, the more stress you can handle without exploding (or imploding).
They take it all personally
Someone quits and they’re mad. They lash out and saddle the person with all kinds of terrible motives.
Someone doesn’t buy from them and they have a fit. They’re offended and won’t talk with anyone and shut themselves up in their office and badmouth the person when it’s all over.
Whatever happens, they take it as a personal attack.
First, the truth is that most of what happens to us is not personal.
People act the way they do for their own reasons most of which have nothing to do with us.
They treat us badly because they are having a bad day, not because we are bad. They quit without notice because they made a poor decision, not because we’re evil.
Second, mature people recognize that they may well be part of the problem. They are able to stand outside themselves and look at the situation from the other person’s perspective.
Taking things personally complicates every situation, shuts down communication, and make everyone who does it miserable.
I just finished reading a book to my wife (we’ve done this before sleep for decades) called “The Princess and Curdie.” It’s a fairy tale written over 100 years ago by George Macdonald.
In it, the Princess character explains this scene to Curdie: Someone is walking up a mountain and another person is walking down the same mountain. They stop and shake hands on their respective journeys. When you see them shaking hands, you can’t tell which direction they’re going. They seem the same at that moment, but one is progressing on the way up and one is on the way down.
Which are you? Are you getting better? Or bitter? It’s all your choice!