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Why You Can't Reason with Emotionally Immature People

Have you ever tried to have a calm, rational discussion with someone, only to find yourself going in circles, feeling unheard, and getting increasingly frustrated? If so, you may have been dealing with an emotionally immature person.

Emotional immaturity is marked by a lack of self-awareness, empathy, and ability to regulate one's emotions. Emotionally immature people often react impulsively, take things personally, and struggle to see perspectives other than their own.

Trying to reason with someone who's emotionally underdeveloped can feel like banging your head against a wall. No matter how clear and logical you are, they just don't seem to get it. Here's why:

Emotionally immature people are driven by emotions rather than logic.

Emotionally immature people are ruled by their feelings in the moment. They lack the self-awareness to step back and examine their reactions objectively.

When they're upset, they're consumed by their emotional experience. They can't separate their feelings from facts. Attempting to introduce rational arguments or evidence is futile because they're not in a headspace to receive it.

They take everything personally.

Emotionally underdeveloped individuals tend to interpret neutral events or comments as personal attacks. They assume hidden agendas and malicious intent behind others' actions.

Because they're so self-focused, they struggle to consider alternative explanations. They react defensively to perceived slights, making it difficult to have a productive dialogue.

They lack the ability to self-reflect.

Emotional immaturity often involves a lack of introspection. These individuals rarely examine their own role in conflicts or take responsibility for their impact on others.

They may blame, deflect, or play the victim when confronted with their behavior. They struggle to own their mistakes or apologize sincerely. Trying to reason with someone who won't acknowledge their part is an uphill battle.

They resort to manipulation.

When emotionally immature people feel threatened or don't get their way, they may resort to manipulation to regain control. This can include guilt-tripping, gaslighting, or playing on your insecurities.

They might twist your words, bring up past grievances, or make unfair accusations to throw you off balance.

These tactics are designed to derail the conversation and avoid taking responsibility.

They have low distress tolerance.

Emotionally underdeveloped people often have a hard time sitting with uncomfortable feelings. When discussions get heated or their views are challenged, they may become overwhelmed and lash out or shut down.

They lack the emotional regulation skills to tolerate the distress of working through difficult topics. They may become reactive, defensive, or stonewall to escape the discomfort.

So, what can you do when faced with an emotionally immature person? Here are a few tips:

Recognize their limitations

Accept that, in this moment, they may not have the capacity for rational discussion. Their emotional reactivity and lack of self-awareness prevent them from engaging productively.

Adjust your expectations. Don't count on them to suddenly see reason or validate your perspective. Focus on managing your own response instead.

Set boundaries.

Clearly communicate what you will and won't tolerate in your interactions. Use "I" statements to express your limits, such as "I won't continue this conversation if you're yelling."

Be prepared to follow through with consequences if your boundaries are crossed. This might mean ending the discussion, leaving the room, or limiting contact for a period.

Don't take attacks personally.

Remind yourself that their immaturity is not about you. Their reactions and behaviors stem from their own unresolved issues and limited coping skills.

Practice emotional detachment. Observe their words and actions with curiosity rather than taking them to heart. Maintain a sense of your own worth separate from their opinion.

Focus on your own growth and safety.

You can't control or change an emotionally immature person, but you can work on your own self-awareness and communication skills.

Notice if you have patterns of getting entangled with emotionally underdeveloped people. Reflect on what you can learn from these interactions and how you want to respond differently moving forward.

Consider working with a therapist or coach to explore any underlying issues that make you vulnerable to these dynamics and to build stronger boundaries.

Remember, you are not responsible for managing another adult's emotional development.

You can offer compassion and model healthy communication, but ultimately, their growth is their own responsibility.

By accepting their limitations, focusing on what you can control, and investing in your own self-awareness, you can navigate interactions with emotionally immature people with more clarity and resilience.

Trust that as you continue to develop your own emotional intelligence and assertiveness, you'll naturally start to attract more mature, reciprocal relationships. In the meantime, keep honoring your own needs, feelings, and boundaries.


Photo of Kelly Judd, life coach for women, a white woman with dark hair and large tortoiseshell glasses, slightly smiling at the camera

Hi, I'm Kelly. 👋 I help you make hard decisions and do hard things. Like you, I spent decades putting others' needs before my own. After almost 20 years of leadership roles and a lifetime’s worth of plot twists in my personal life, I made the empowering decision to seek greater meaning and purpose in my work, helping others to reconnect with their authentic selves and discover the joy, peace, and clarity that comes with finally identifying and prioritizing your own needs.


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