This blog is called ‘From Aid to Maturity.’ Hence, in this post I will talk to you about the importance of maturity. And why the human race, and the aid community in particular, needs to evolve from its present teenager stage into a more grown-up one. Teenagers are often self-centred and unable to see the wider effects of their behaviour.
A mature person understands that they are responsible for their own lives; and are aware of how their behaviour and actions affect other people.
Sadly, I have experienced a large number of international aid people acting highly immature. This is a business where mature behaviour should be the norm, considering the severity of the causes we work on.
Agencies and individuals acting out of self-interest, refusing to cooperate or share information, are all signs of a profound lack of maturity. Even worse are the deliberate attempts to sabotage and hurt others for some short-sighted gains. We need to grow up.
People trust mature persons. If people do not trust you they might act according to your advice or instructions at the moment; but the results will not be sustainable.
The tube well stops functioning or an employee will subtly sabotage your decisions. Trust is of course not enough to change people’s behaviour, but it is a prerequisite.
So what does it take for you to become a trustworthy and mature person able to yield significant influence?
Here is my take on the essential features of maturity in order of importance.
You Take Responsibility
A mature person takes responsibility. First and foremost for your own actions. But also for others’ if you believe you have influenced someone to make a bad decision.
You do not blame outsiders for your wrongdoings. You can apologize, also to yourself.
You understand that it is up to you to deal with any challenges that come your way; and that the outcome is dependent on you.
A good example is the contrast between Nelson Mandela and Donald Trump.
You are Self-aware
Self-awareness will make you understand there are different ways to respond to your emotions. Therefore, you handle stressful situations better and keep your calm.
Being able to keep calm makes you a winner. In situations where everyone else is frantic you will stand out.
Self-awareness also makes you better prepared to handle criticism, and see if you need to take it in and adjust your behaviour. Or if it is irrelevant, coming from someone who just wants to belittle you.
You can keep a beneficial distance to your own ego and you can laugh at your own missteps.
You Have Integrity
A person with integrity acts in coherence with their values, having everybody’s longer-term interests in mind.
You walk the talk. If transparency is important to you, then you share information with others, and want open feedback on your work and suggestions.
You are concerned with the wellbeing of others, and stand up for justice and fairness. Such as seeing a co-worker being treated unfairly and speak up for them even though it might back–fire.
You Have Empathy
Empathy is a necessity for having good relationships. You take interest, ask questions and care about others.
You are able to feel in the mood of a person or a group when entering a room.
Before you speak or act you always think about what the consequences will be on others.
You are a good listener, and reflect and respond to what is being said.
That does not mean you like everyone.
You Are a Giver
To a mature person giving is an intrinsic value. Moreover, the genuine givers I have met do give to others without expecting a return.
The most mature and generous givers take it a step further and are willing to make sacrifices in order for you to have what you want. Such as letting you go on that training she wants to go on.
However, you do not let your generosity make people take advantage of you.
You are able to find the balance.
So what on this list is my worst weakness? Unfortunately, I have too often acted as my own worst enemy through the lack of self-awareness. Too many times, many extremely embarrassing, I have let my negative emotions had the better of me.
Showing aggression towards others, oftentimes based on erroneous assumptions; or making impulsive decisions such as moving house and later regretting it, has often prevented me from taking out my full potential.
However, like most people I fortunately consist of both good and bad. Demonstratring integrity, being true to myself and speaking up for others belong to my positive features.
So, can anyone of us say that we 100 per cent live up to the requirements in the list? I think not, at least not all the time.
What is important is the constant effort. And most importantly, always try to find something to laugh at, especially at yourself, because:
‘You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself’ – Ethel Barrymore