Stubbornness Can Be a Virtue or a Vice

Who hasn’t encountered a stubborn person? They can be so frustrating! They’re intractable, like a bull. My dad literally was a bull, Taurus. He was the epitome of stubbornness. If he didn’t want to do something or change his mind, nothing in this world was going to make him.

7 Deadly Sins

You would think stubbornness would be one of the 7 Deadly Sins because it literally can cause death if a person takes it too far.

If you don’t know or recall, the 7 Deadly Sins were popular in the Middle Ages in Europe. They were “invented” by the Catholic faith as vices that spur other sins and immoral behavior. They were 7 traits that you didn’t want to possess.

My dad refused to move around in his twilight years even though the doctors continued to encourage movement. It didn’t cause his death, but it probably contributed to it. Movement is critical in life, especially as we age. Never sit continuously! In fact, the motto for my dad’s high school was, “If we rest, we rust.” My dad moved a lot when he was younger but by the time he aged, he was ready to sit. I guess you could say he earned it.

When he was facing kidney failure the doctors urged him to drink more water. He refused. When he started to see the writing on the wall and potentially miss my nephew’s upcoming wedding, he relented. He still didn’t drink as much as we would have liked, but enough. His willingness to concede bought him 7 more years.

My father-in-law was another stubborn person. Towards the end of his life, he also refused to do things that would have prolonged his life. It got him in the end.

You could argue that by the time we reach our 80s and beyond we’ve earned the right to sit around and give in to our favorite vices, even if it hastens our death. Perhaps they are ready to go. Who are we to judge? As the spectator so to speak, it’s hard to witness. We want them to take care of themselves and prolong their lives. It’s their choice and there isn’t much that we can do.

I Told You So…

What about people who are given critical feedback but do nothing to change it?

There is a person that I know who has been laid off of jobs repeatedly. The reason is always the same: his directness/communication style. Reading between the lines he isn’t a people person. That’s a fact. He acknowledges it.

It’s fine not to care what others think but if it’s your boss, then I would re-think that strategy. But this person doesn’t. He continues to complain that he can’t get a job or when he does, he doesn’t seem to care that it’s the same reason over and over when he gets let go. He’s right and they’re wrong and that’s that. If they don’t like his style, then too bad. Too bad? His stubbornness is doing him in.

When I first met this person, I tried to reason with him. I tried to make him see the light. I tried to help him. None of it worked. Quickly, I gave up. I’ve had enough stubborn people in my life to know that they aren’t going to change so quit wasting your breath. It’s one thing to be nice and help, it’s another to continually beat your head against the wall until you’re black and blue!

Why Are People so Stubborn?

There are many reasons.

One is fear of change. Many people don’t like change. If you ask them to change, they’ll hold on for dear life. As long as they keep doing what they’ve been doing, they’ll be safe in their minds. Their stubbornness is a form of protection. If they don’t do something, then they can’t get hurt.

Another is arrogance. The stubborn person is right and you’re wrong. Period, end of story. Steve Jobs is known for being one intractable person whose arrogance eventually caught up with him when he was ousted as CEO from his own company! Eventually he made changes.

Others think being consistent, i.e. not being open to change and pursuing what they believe is right, is a virtue. In their minds, stubbornness is a good thing. It gets them where they want to go, so why change?

Yet others think outcomes are subject to their will. They have nerves of steel. Their internal control is paramount to them. If you think you’re going to break down their walls and change how they think, think again! They know they will win in the end. Maybe, maybe not.

How to Deal with a Stubborn Person

Re-direct: Stubbornness, in other words, can lead to a person’s demise. Or, it can be used for good. Channel that stubbornness into perseverance. Let it be your motivation to get where you’re going.

Ask questions: No one likes to be told what to do, especially stubborn people. Instead of telling the stubborn mule what to do, ask questions. “What would it be like if we did this instead?” or “Could we do it this way [and still get the same or better result]?”

Once the person starts to see a better way, then they’ll start to own it. Let them. Let them think it was their idea. One of my favorite quotes from the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, was when the two sisters-in-law were discussing one of their husbands.  “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”

In other words, the way to turn someone around is to let them think it’s their idea. So what if you don’t get credit? If they start to see the light, then who cares how they got there?  Yes, it’s manipulative but nobody said all manipulation was bad. Obstinate people can be wrong and prone to bad decisions because their inflexibility gets in the way. As long as your intentions aren’t devious or selfish, you’re doing a good deed. Very subtly you’re helping them to see the error of their ways.

Praise: Many, but certainly not all, stubborn people are narcissists. They are the arrogant ones who are always right. You are never right. “It’s my way or the highway.” You get the drift. These people are beyond infuriating because you will never win an argument. So, don’t try.

They’ll Out-Maneuver You Every Time if You Let Them

It’s like when an army is out-numbered. They can’t win with man or fire power so they have to change tactics. That was true of our fledgling nation during the Revolutionary War. George Washington knew the deck was stacked against him with the British. To out-maneuver them he turned to the Native Americans who were known for their stealthy fighting skills. Washington saw an opportunity to enlist their skills to turn the tide of the war. Changing his approach worked.

The same is true with a narcissist or any stubborn person. You can’t win by arguing with them. Or nagging. Or bullying. The bigger bully always wins and it’s them. So, you have to change tactics.

Narcissists have big egos, that’s part of the definition of one. As such, they’re suckers for compliments. Cajole them. Lead them where you want them to go with a trail of flattering breadcrumbs. Feed their ego. They’re less likely to attack your ideas if you’re waving the flag of surrender with admiration. They fall for it every time.  It will make your job easier and it feels good to give praise, as long as it’s sincere. Narcissists can sniff out a lie a mile away so don’t bother with false acclaim.

While stubborn people can be very frustrating, there are ways to deal with them. Sometimes it’s not worth our effort. They’re going to do what they’re going to do even to their own detriment. Other times there’s a ray of hope if you use some of the tactics outlined above.  It’s like the popular line: “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” Know when to intervene, know when to back off.

Best of luck with the mule in your life!

As with everything in life, if you’re not sure how to deal with someone ask your intuition. If you don’t know how to do that,  then let me show you how.

If someone else tells you what to do and you’re not sure, then use your intuition to verify it. It may be the right advice at the wrong time. Or the wrong advice completely. Use your intuition to know which is true.

Many of my clients have said that they want to learn how to develop their intuition. Because of that, I developed this easy-to-follow do it at your own pace, online course. It’s packed with tips, hacks and how-to exercises.

If you want to confirm that you have it, learn how to listen to it, how to talk to it and how to trust it start by CLICKING HERE.

Once you start listening to your intuition, you’ll be amazed how much your life clicks into place. Then you can truly start enjoying yourself and get what you want out of life!

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