This is definitely one of the biggest complaints that people have for the opposite sex, for coworkers, for so called friends and for those gone by. Why are people so immature?
I think it’s always interesting to consider how there are two sides to every story. If you know two people who are having a disagreement or a falling out, chances are, like me, you end up hearing the complaints on both sides of the fence. He says that he wishes she would just grow up and stop playing so many emotional games. She says that she wishes he would stop being so immature and starting taking responsibility like a man. He’s annoyed that he can’t demonstrate any sort of consistency in his behaviour. She’s annoyed that her friend seems to still act like she’s 5 years old.
You ever been there? Probably. That’s probably how you ended up here. The truth is, we’ve all been in this place before.
Or maybe even more than that, you are the person who is frustrated with someone’s apparent lack of growing up. Were they trained in masculinity at the Peter Pan School for Boys? Does she still play with her dolls the way she plays with her friends?
One of the funniest things to me is that the most common complaint that women have about men is (say it with me, boys and girls) – they’re so immature! But then the most common complaint I find from the guys I know about women is also – wait for it – they’re so immature! So here we are, both calling each other immature. But not just across the genders – two business partners will also do it with each other. Two friends. Two opponents in the race to presidency. Two people with disparate worldviews. If that’s the case, clearly we have different measurements or meanings for maturity with others than we do with ourselves.
So let’s have a look at what aspects we are really making complaint about when we start calling foul on the maturity card. Why are people so immature?
Probably the most universally shared reason for the use of the immaturity card is when someone appears to be shirking back from responsibility. You know how it is – either it’s a parent or a partner not doing their share of looking after the kids, someone ignoring their chores, someone refusing to get a job or advance themselves, or someone who is failing in their responsibilities to you.
The main theme that was at the centre of adulthood in the Hebrew culture was the notion of responsibility. Even to this day, when a young man completes his Bar Mitzvah, he is considered a man, and is given the responsibilities of a man. His ability to carry these new responsibilities is how his culture gauges his success in his adulthood.
The culture of the West really isn’t any different. We get deeply frustrated when someone should be more responsible than they are. It’s still amazing how willing we are to belittle and meme our way out of accepting responsibilities in our own lives. Like our hate for responsibility is actually meant to be funny. It’s actually kind of embarrassing.
How they handle conflict
I think one of the big ways I gauge someone’s level of maturity is by the way they handle conflict. I find this especially true in my dealings in the workplace, but it also extends beyond the realms of the boardroom.
“Can we talk about this like adults?”
In many cases, even when you do have adults involved, we really can’t. We avoid people like we’re in primary school. We go around in circles with logical fallacies, We make people play our emotional games to win us back over. We just completely invalidate someone’s feelings or opinion on something that has deeply affected them. We dominate and yell and get loud instead of getting closer.
And probably the biggest source of our childish conflict tactics…
Their ability to listen
We don’t listen.
Stephen Covey said on this topic that “many people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen to the intent to reply”. We see this attitude destroy so many relationships in our world. The other person is just tolerating what we’re saying so they can just take the gap in the sentence to get their big dig in there. And we’re doing the same back to them! Everyone’s talking, and nobody is listening.
The art of maturity comes from being slow to speak. That infers that we’re listening enough that when we do speak, we’ve probably heard enough to say something that actually builds our relationship rather than destroying it.
Here’s another big part of our immaturity complaint. We feel like we’re just part of a constant immature conversation with people. We feel like we’re always having shallow words with people, that there’s no real substance to the things that are being said, and that we leave a conversation feeling pretty unfulfilled, or maybe even bored.
I think the art of conversation is really the art of asking questions. Immature people tend to talk endlessly about themselves, and get bored with conversation once they’ve run out of prompted opportunities to say something about themselves. I think conversation is the science of discovering another life.
Your conversation is probably only over simply because you’ve stopped asking questions. And if all your conversations feel that way, maybe consider that you are the source of the immaturity. If in absolutely all your conversations you’re frustrated that no one is broaching any topics of any substantial depth, consider that means that you aren’t either.
Knowledge and experience
Two of the big measures of a person’s maturity are their knowledge and experience. We usually consider those who are more well studied, or at least sound like they are, to be worthwhile and ahead in their life journey. And everyone loves a good story, so we are drawn to those who seem to have more extensive life experience, or at least more proven experience.
I think this is fair enough. However, some people who have more knowledge or experience in an area have actually proven at times to be less mature. Why is that? For me, I consider the fruit of someone’s life. Even if their experience doesn’t say it, do their words have success in comforting or directing those who are facing that experience? Do they have success in their own life in their purpose, calling, relationships or conflicts, or are they just a bag of wind?
Great example I can think of here is a man named Elihu. Fortunately his name is rare so his story is the first result you’ll find on any major search engine. Have a look.
That said, may we respect the men and women who also have the years behind their track record. A life of consistency that has been carried out for decades is definitely a voice that we all need to be listening to.
A perceived lack of sincerity
Here’s a clincher.
There’s nothing worse than someone who appears to be completely insincere in their decisions, their conversations, or their approach to you. In fact it’s even worse when someone proves themselves insincere through their actions. One of my friends was recently discussing with myself and another friend about the languages of apology, and how insincerity in an apology can be a completely destructive thing. Of course, insincerity in any action really can be just as destructive. Once again, I guess this aspect of maturity comes back to the idea of the fruit of a person’s life.
This is where maturity is formed by other words that matter. Words like character, integrity, consistency, faithfulness.
And followthrough. Is a person simply all talk, or are they consistently backed up by a strong sense of action?
How they compare with how I think I handle the world
I think one of the most common approaches we take in life is to gauge how someone else handles a situation against how we would handle the situation. I mean, they’re shirking their responsibilities, and *I* would never do that! Right?
Maybe I would. Maybe I do.
I think this the great journey of finding those who are comparable to us. Like Adam looking for his Eve, we seek out people who we feel that we compare to. Our deepest desire really is for someone who just gets us, after all. As a result, we interpret the actions of everyone else through the filter of how we approach the world.
Is this right, or is this wrong? I’m not sure. It’s probably fine. But what probably isn’t fine if we are labelling the behaviour of another as immature when we are being ignortant to the fact we are perpetuating this same behaviour ourselves.
We can’t really blame others for repeating to us the same behaviour we are demonstrating to someone else.
Just some thoughts on what it truly means when we’re asking the question, “why are people so immature?”. Maybe it really is them. Or maybe it’s also me.
In truth, the answer is probably that it’s “us”. You and me together. It’s how we try to negotiate this maze called relationship in a world where I can’t read your mind, and you can’t read mine. In such a world, our words and actions should align and provide the transcript for our mutual understanding of each other, and lead us into a place of unity.
How about you? What are your pet hates in the area of maturity? Do you reckon there are big thoughts that come to mind when we’re frustrated with someone’s perceived immaturity?