Blog Posts for improving relationships and living a peaceful life

Identifying and Improving Immature Emotional Responses


Whether you are twenty-five or fifty-five, chances are you have been in a situation or relationship where you have exhibited immature emotional responses. This may be due to inadequate response skills, an inability to reflect and replace, or stunted emotional growth. Many of us were not taught appropriate conflict resolution skills or had parents who modeled poor or destructive behaviors. However, this does not mean we are stuck in the same response cycles with no opportunity to change.

Sometimes, our immature emotional responses are triggered by a hurt, fear, or threat perceived during the interaction, causing us to go into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn mode. These responses may impact your marriage, children, aging parents, siblings, or co-workers and building skills for healthier responses may vastly improve these relationships.

Let’s explore unhealthy patterns of behavior, the causes, and ways to grow emotionally. Note that these steps are general suggestions for awareness, reflection, and growth and are not designed for diagnosing or treating emotional patterns related to mental illness, addiction, or abuse. If you are experiencing any of these, please seek help immediately.

 Patterns of Behavior

The first step, is to identify the behaviors-especially repeated patterns- so that you can replace them with healthier responses. The following are examples of immature responses:

1.    Emotional manipulation- Pouting, sulking, and the silent treatment.

2.    Reactive responses- Ranting, lashing out, aggression, name-calling.

3.    Poor impulse control- Quick escalation of emotions.

4.    Lack of responsibility- Deflecting, blaming, and gaslighting.

 Possible Causes

1.    Lack of conflict resolution skills-Growing up in a family where you were not allowed to experience negative emotions, express your likes and dislikes, or differentiate from your parent’s values.

2.    Past trauma- Experiencing trauma in childhood may result in emotional stunting, and regression patterns.

3.    Hurt, fear, threat- Perceiving situations or experiences as hurtful, scary, or threatening (real or otherwise).

 Ways to Grow Emotionally

1.    Reflect- Think about and write down past and recent patterns of responses in situations where you felt hurt, fear, or threat; determine if there are patterns in the interactions and responses.

2.    Name the patterns- Use the four patterns of behaviors listed above as references (include responses that may not be listed).

3.    Acknowledge- Take responsibility for these behaviors while also having compassion and patience for yourself.

4.    Talk with a trusted person- Ask them for feedback on your reflections and patterns.

5.    Integrate-Consider alternative behaviors to be integrated into your response patterns.

6.    Reframe and replace-This step may take time to implement. It involves taking responsibility, reducing impulsivity, remaining reflective, and considering alternate responses.

 How to Reframe and Replace

If you are responding from a place of trauma or lack of conflict resolution skills, this step is critical for emotional maturity. These skills require practice and build on each other as you work to integrate new patterns of responding.

Example Scenario: Discussing finances with your spouse.

  • Reflect: Notice unhealthy patterns of response when you have these conversations.

  • Name the patterns: Quick escalation of emotions, ranting, and lashing out.

  • Acknowledge- Accept these patterns of behaviors and consider alternative responses.

  • Talk: Discuss your responses with a trusted friend or counselor.

  • Integrate: Plan for how to respond and set boundaries before the discussion.

  • Reframe and replace: Reframe the conversation as one where you and your spouse work together for solutions. Discuss possible triggers and replace threatening or hurtful language with supportive and instructive language.

 Healthy Ways of Responding

1.    Pause: Take a moment before responding.

2.    Consider: Think about the circumstances, the other person’s perspective, and response options.

3.    Respond: Be aware of your tone and body language. Communicate if you need a break before responding.

4.    Reflect: Think about how you responded and consider integrating this behavior in other circumstances

5.    Revise: If you revert back to an old pattern, extend grace to yourself, apologize and respond appropriately.

 Example of a Pause Response:

“I hear what you are saying and it’s important to me, but I need a few minutes to calm down/process/consider how to respond appropriately. I appreciate your patience with me.”

 Example of a Revised Response:

“I am sorry for how I responded earlier. I was feeling (hurt, afraid, threatened) because I felt (give reason). Please give me an opportunity to revise my response.”

 These steps are suggestions for improving your response to conflict and are not exhaustive. They aim to promote self-awareness, self-ownership, and a willingness to improve interactions with others. If you have trouble with these exercises or experience anxiety or depression during the process, please consider seek help from a counselor, pastor, or therapist.


 Additional resource on emotional maturity:

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