Healthy Leaders


How Old Am I Emotionally?

Stephen MayersStephen Mayers

“If you didn’t know when your birthday was, what age would you give yourself?”  The age you feel may very well be much younger than your number of years living, but that’s okay. The real question is, are you the same age emotionally as you are chronologically?  If there is a tendency, and I think there is, it will be that we grow more slowly emotionally than physically!  So, you can be 45 on your birthday and yet still be an infant emotionally. Isn’t it sad that our education systems tend to be focused more on intellectual knowledge and practical skills but neglect our emotional development personally and the establishing of healthy relationships with others? The following four questions and statements can give an insight into whether we are infants, children, adolescents, or adults emotionally.

We all have a range of emotional responses and I personally am seeking to shorten my reaction time when difficult circumstances arise. It pains me to recognize that I too, can stumble into two-year-old responses sometimes. I am learning to recognize those reactions and ask for grace to calm down and be the big person emotionally that I know God is seeking to develop in me.

The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves shares how important it is to understand our emotions. Studies have shown that people experience an average of 27 emotions each waking hour. Of all the emotions you will experience in your lifetime, nearly two million of them will happen during your working hours. It makes sense therefore, if we are desiring good experiences in our relationships as teams, that we will work on managing our emotions and enjoy positive connections with everyone we work with. Let’s take a quick look at the classic four elements of growing in our emotional maturity taken from the book mentioned above:

  1. Self-awareness definition: This is the ability to accurately perceive your own emotions and what is behind them; to understand how people and things influence your behavior and how your behavior impacts others. It includes staying on top of your typical reactions to specific events, challenges and people. In order to understand our emotions, first of all we need to spend time figuring out what they are, where they are coming from and why they are there. Emotions are reactions to life experience and always come from somewhere!
  1. Self-management definition: This is the ability to use your awareness of emotions to stay flexible and direct your behavior positively. This means managing your emotional reactions to stressful or frustrating situations, knowing when to speak up and when to stand back and knowing how to respond to people with the best possible attitude.
  1. Social awareness definition: This is the ability to pick up on emotions in other people you are relating with and understand what is really going on with them. This means reading between the lines and perceiving and caring about what other people are really thinking and feeling even if you do not feel the same way.
  1. Relational management definition: This is the ability to be aware of your own emotions, the emotions of others and to manage interactions successfully. This ensures clear communication and the effective handling of conflict.

Hal hated Charlie, everything about him, from his knowing sneer to his rolling swagger. When he saw him enter the restaurant with Keith, he wished fervently he could get away and considered getting up and walking out of the breakfast meeting, without a word to either of his two former partners. But then he garnered his faculties and decided to accept this reality. He would choose how to respond, and his choice would be to be cordial and cooperative. He felt a surge of strength as he realized that handling himself in a dignified manner with both these men would be a bigger personal victory than if he met with Keith alone. (Excerpt from The Hero’s Choice: Living from the Inside Out)

Hal’s immediate reaction was to simply act out his negative emotions. Instead, he made a decision to respond in a more positive (emotionally mature) way. Notice how that decision resulted in a shift in his emotional energy. These are the kinds of decisions we need to be making daily, in order to grow in our emotional age.

This is obviously a huge topic but I hope these initial thoughts will move you on in your journey to emotional maturity.

Are you interested in writing for Head on over to our Write for Us page to submit an article!