While I endorse people being stubborn about pursuing the things that matter most to them, I am not naive enough to ignore the negative side of stubbornness.
Being stubborn can be a good thing, and being stubborn can be a bad thing. It is a tool which we can control, and ultimately it is up to us to decide how to approach it.
Key to this is remembering that stubborn doesn’t have to mean rigid. After all, things that are rigid are more prone to breaking. We can be stubborn while maintaining an open mind, and a willingness to compromise when necessary.
BEING STUBBORN AND THE INDIVIDUAL
Psych Mechanics describes stubbornness as "a personality trait in which a person refuses to change his opinion about a situation or refuses to change his mind about the action that he has decided to take”. There are different interpretations of what it looks like to be stubborn, and why people behave this way.
Arguably the worst type of stubbornness is its use as a passive-aggressive weapon, in which the stubborn party is being deliberately and provocatively pig-headed.
On occasion stubbornness is used as a defence mechanism, to avoid being controlled by others.
Some people are only stubborn because they know that it will help them to get what they want.
Similarly, stubbornness can be used to prevent external forces that would stop an individual from fulfilling their desire.
Stubborn people can be so attached to their beliefs, opinions, ideas, and tastes that they cannot stand anyone disagreeing with them. In fact, they take disagreement personally, feeling like the ‘opposer’ is disagreeing with who they fundamentally are as a person.
This is where caution is required, and certain tactics can help us to assess whether we’re being beneficially or detrimentally stubborn:
Try to understand your opposition: cultivate a mind that it is open enough to listen to other opinions, even if they conflict with your own. Rather than shutting down or avoiding opposition, seek to understand it. It might persuade you to flex your views (which is totally fine! We are all always learning), or it might leave you feeling more resolute than ever!. Either way, knowledge and consideration are never bad things, as long as you balance it with your own plans and opinions, rather than being ’steamrollered’.
Don’t forget that it is totally okay to agree to disagree with other people, as long as you’re kind and mindful of their position. But if you’ve listened, sought to understand, and respected other perspectives, you’ll be better able to state your position by demonstrating an understanding of the bigger context.
Be open to other possibilities: we can get ’stuck in our ways’ by believing that there is only one viable course of action. Even if you do have a clear plan, it is important to approach every situation with an openness to at least explore the idea of other alternatives if they present themselves. You can consider how another approach fits with your plan, asking yourself “what conditions would need to be in place for me to be convinced of this idea?”. This might lead to adopting a completely new approach, or adapting your existing one, but either way it demonstrates respect for others through a willingness to be flexible. And by opening your mind, you might learn of possibilities that hadn’t previously occurred to you.
Be brave enough to admit when you’re wrong: believing in your approach is one thing, but digging your heels in when you know that you’re wrong is inexcusable. It is important to own up to any mistakes, and hold yourself accountable for your decisions and actions. You’ll actually gain more respect and credibility in the long run for this.
Decide where you are willing to compromise: remember that not every situation warrants such steadfast conviction. Although you can advocate for what you believe in, it’s important to recognise that sometimes you’ll need to conceded or compromise, to ensure that things move forward in a positive manner. Understand which decisions you could tolerate, even if they are not your top choice. Letting go of your own ideas, convictions, and decisions does not mean that you’re letting go of your beliefs or identity. Sometimes you are simply compromising for the sake of the greater good.
“Stubbornness and ignorance and determination are a very fine line from each other. I'm a very stubborn person, but not so stubborn that I can't learn new things and meet new people, but I have a one-track mind.” - Joe Nichols
THE POSITIVE SIDE OF BEING STUBBORN
“He was so stubborn, but maybe that's a good thing to be--a force of will that doesn't die no matter how many horrible things happen to you.” - Robin Roe, A List of Cages
Click here to fully understand the benefits of being a bit stubborn.
Yes, being stubborn can be good for you. It can help you to stay on track when faced with obstacles or opposition that you don’t agree with. It can help you to stay true to your beliefs and goals, even when other people don’t believe in them.
After all, people who are stubborn tend to be determined and focused, and as such it is hard to stop them from reaching their goals, and making their ideas a reality.
People are often stubborn because they care, because they try, and because they push themselves to learn more and to do better. They are passionate and enthusiastic in their endeavours, and often make great leaders.
HOW TO BE STUBBORN FOR THE BENEFIT OF OURSELVES, AND OTHERS
To summarise, how can we make sure that our stubborn streak stays on the healthy, positive side?
Be willing to question whether you are right, by listening to others with an open mind.
Remember that it’s okay to change your mind.
Cultivate self-awareness through reflection. Consider your motive, and the implications of your intended action.
Do things because you really want to, rather than because you think you should.
“Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan.” - John C Maxwell
BE *SELECTIVELY* STUBBORN
We can be 'selectively stubborn’ by remaining open-minded, fair, and kind to others. By being a bit stubborn, we're encouraged to stop saying 'if only’, and start saying 'well how can I figure this out?’ before taking action. It is to be determined, focused and proactive.
If you'd like a few Instagram examples of my most "stubborn and proud" moments, see: