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Saturday, March 14, 2015

How to Fake Maturity

When Juliet Brynn's
drawings begin
to come true,
she discovers a power
at work in the universe
which forges paths
into places most people
choose never to go.
A common reaction people share with me after reading Drawn, is “How do you write fourteen-year-olds so believably?” I respond that I can because, deep inside, I still possess the affective and psychological psyche of a fourteen-year-old. Then they laugh.
I don’t get why they laugh.
But it occurs to me that I must appear an emotionally and psychologically mature adult.
Maybe friends occasionally ask my opinion on matters of life navigation, not because they consider me a cautionary example against which the truly wise would do just the opposite, but because they actually think I… ulp… know something.
Sweet!
(Scary.)
I’ve heard it said, “Fake it till you make it,” and apparently I’ve been simulating adulthood pretty convincingly. I thought I’d share five of the most effective maturity-feigning techniques I’ve discovered.
No. 1: “‘Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”
Photo by Madhavi Kuram

Learn How to
Listen Like a Pro
Generally attributed to either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain, this practice has served me well. I have rarely regretted something I didn’t say, and focusing intently on someone else who is speaking gives me an air of deliberation and interest in the topic and person at hand. “What a sage and thoughtful listener she is,” the speaker thinks. Silent attentiveness makes me seem serious and intellectual. And all I have to do is stare and occasionally nod.
This works great with parents, by the way. Especially if you follow it up with, “I’ll think about that. Thanks.”
No. 2 is akin to No. 1: Do not utter the first thing that comes into your mind.
Ever.
If you have been blessed with a speedy and reliable internal filter, you may be able to ignore this one. But I have not. So, if you’re like me…
The first thought that occurs to you when someone else speaks, or when you’re reading a newspaper or textbook or comic strip, or when you’re asked a serious question, is probably the same thing 98% of the rest of the world also thought, and/or is simply wrong, cliché, trite, or just plain stupid. I know this from personal experience.
Photo by nov2874

You, Too, Can
Learn to be Funny
And the snappy, sarcastic comeback is a relatively recent invention, spawned in the intellectually-vacuous cesspool of TV sit-coms and adolescent-boy-targeted movies. Thirteen-year-olds may find you hilarious if you regularly employ this inane attempt at rhetoric; most people over the cognitive age of fifteen will just find you tiresome and not worth wasting conversational energy on.
If, on the other hand, you are searching for a truly witty and/or thoughtful thing to say, churn through the first few ideas you have, reject them, and stretch for something that actually takes a little mental work. The cream will rise if you give it time.
No. 3: “I think” are two of the finest words in the English language.
I cannot count the number of times I have been 100%, undeniably, without hesitation certain that I was absolutely, totally, inarguably correct about something.
Then I found out later I was wrong.
Dang!
Framing your assertions with the introductory clause, “I think”, will save you so much humiliation and crow-eating.
Unless you are Stephen Hawking discussing astrophysics, Shaun White discussing snowboarding/skateboarding, or God discussing anything, you don’t know nearly as much as you think you know.

No. 4: When you don’t know something, just say so.
Lack of knowledge does not indicate lack of maturity or intelligence. One key giveaway of the immature person is that he exhibits a constant need to outdo everyone else in the room.
Photo by Russell McNeil
For example, I know someone who delights in pointing out others’ mistakes. If I mispronounce a word, it is immediately drawn to my and everyone else’s attention with gleeful mocking.
The best response I’ve ever learned in dealing with such a person? Say, “Oh, I didn’t know that. Thanks for telling me.” End of conversation. If the disparaging critic continues to make fun of you, he’ll just look like a jerk. Especially if you simply shrug your shoulders and say, “I clearly can’t compete with your intellect.” (That’s self-deprecating irony, by the way.) Someone else will probably come to your defense, and even if no one does, you’ve taken the high road and will appear the wiser and more mature between the two of you.
Trust me on this.
No. 5: Be nice.
I know, that probably sounds a little off. What does nice-ness have to do with faking maturity?
A lot, actually.
Enhance Your Maturity
with this T-Shirt
A mature person is secure enough in herself to pay attention to other people. She doesn’t need to compete with others, to put others down, or to set herself up as more of anything than those around her. If you think about the most “popular” people you know—I don’t mean the ones who are just crazy-talented in some way, or who are or supermodel good-looking, but the people you genuinely like and enjoy being around—they’re really nice, aren’t they?
You may not feel confidant, but you can pretend to be by casting the limelight on someone else, instead of hogging it for yourself.
You may not feel attractive, but you can tell someone else that he or she is.
You may not feel smart, but you can ask someone else for his thoughts or opinions.
You can fake it till you make it.
The great thing about all this is that outward behavior almost always gets interpreted as inner character. (Of course, that’s the not-so-great thing about it, too.) People will treat you the way you show them that you ought to be treated. And you can influence that to a huge degree by what you say and do. Or what you don’t say and do.
And at some point you’ll probably realize that you’re not actually faking it anymore. You'll really have become mature and confidant and able to navigate the world and your relationships successfully.
At least, that’s what I’ve been told.
I’ll let you know if I ever get there.

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