Be it a child or an adult; their stubbornness can be infuriating at times.
While a child can still be disciplined and taught to do better, dealing with a stubborn adult can be a lot more challenging especially when they’re stubborn with no reason other than pure selfishness. However, that may not always be the case.
So when dealing with stubborn people, how do we know when to push and when to give up?
We asked 6 experts “how to deal with stubborn people?”
Here are their insights.
Certified Life and Parent Coach, Be Kind Coaching
It’s important to know it stems from a belief and need for power
When looking at this challenging behavior it’s important to know it stems from a belief and need for power.
Often times we try to insert our own beliefs and overpower. Resulting in the other party digging in more and ultimately an all-out power struggle- which is a lose/lose situation. Even if you win, you lose out on the relationship. Which for parents and children is a big deal. You are thinking “You can’t get away with that.” And they are thinking “You can’t make me.”
So here are some helpful tips on how to win in those moments:
When we label “stubborn” those are the glasses we put on and see the other person. We tend to then anticipate the struggle before it even begins. When we are mindful of the labels we give- we can shift it from a negative quality to a positive quality. Stubborn switches to persistent. The person you’re talking to now is defending their beliefs- not just being a jerk.
Validate their beliefs
When someone is talking about something illogical it’s our natural instinct to correct them. “That’s not true, it’s like this…” it can stem quickly into a back and forth- who can yell louder or be more right. Instead, look to validate their truth. “I hear you are saying homework is dumb and doesn’t matter.” This tells the person “I see you, I hear you, you matter.” Without having to concede, condone or even agree.
Look for the win/win solution
If this is a person you care about and are invested in long term, go into the conversation looking for a win/win. Negotiate the terms and clearly define any gray area. And then do the follow through. Feelings of resentment pop up when we say one thing but mean something else. With someone who has a strong belief- get very clear on what yours is and look for a respectful solution together.
All in all- look to use their conviction and loyalty as a strength. Someone who will fight for their platform and beliefs- this is someone I want on my team. We want them to feel empowered and not broken!
Former Career Ambassador at the George Washington University | Founder, Transizion
Keep in mind that it’s you and the stubborn person versus the problem
When you’re framing your argument, you need to keep in mind that it’s you and the stubborn person versus the problem, not the stubborn person versus you. Try to explain that to them.
Your body language also needs to be neutral or friendly. Don’t be over-the-top with your expressions, and your hand usage should be minimal. The more aggressive you look, the lower your chances are to convince them.
Read Related Article: Why is Body Language Important?
Last, never personally attack the stubborn person. If they’re being defensive, there’s no point in having them dig in their position. Your goal should be to calmly persuade them to consider your position, not hit them over the head with your points. It won’t matter how well you argue if they’ve already made up their mind.
Doctor of Management, Colorado Technical University
We have very little influence or control of other people changing
Stubborn people, professionally and personally, can be difficult and annoying to deal with. Depending on how bad it is, stubbornness can have detrimental effects on all types of relationships. You can invest a lot of emotional energy in dealing with stubborn people and really get nowhere. So what do we do?
First, let’s characterize what being stubborn means.
Stubbornness is a personality trait equivalent to other traits like calm, caring, empathetic and flexible just to name a few. More specifically, stubbornness is a personality trait in which a person will not change their mind.
Being stubborn makes a person very ridged in their thoughts and actions. In other words, stubborn people can be extremely difficult to deal with.
Second, let’s lay out a foundation on how we can better relate to stubborn people in our personal and professional lives. This foundation starts by answering two questions.
Let’s do the easy one first: What can we expect the stubborn person to do to change the situation in the relationship?
Nothing. We have very little influence or control of other people changing. Let’s just assume the person is who the person is and nothing will change.
Second: What can WE do to make dealing with the stubborn person better?
Take the important first step!
It starts with the realization that we are all responsible for our individual relationships. Let’s take control in walking away from this situation or trying to make it better. Great, we have decided to make it better!
Next, there is not a one-stop answer in dealing with stubborn people or with any other negative trait that individuals can have. We have to understand that everyone is different. All stubborn people are not even the same. Let’s take a step back and look at ourselves and analyze our traits and motives.
What are some of the traits and motives we have which make it difficult in dealing with our stubborn co-worker or spouse? Not everybody “clicks” in the relationships they are in. Maybe if we understood ourselves better and the different types of personality characteristics it may help us foster better relationships all around.
The one thing we can control is ourselves and why not start there?
What is it about our personality we can assess to help us deal with stubborn people? There are many personality tests available to do a self-assessment. Myers-Briggs, DISC and the Color Code are three.
Each of these tests has its uses, but I am a proponent of the Color Code Personality Test. What makes the Color Code personality test different is it bases the assessment on individual motive. Motive is the foundation of our personality and ultimately behavior.
The color code test is based on four different personality types: Red who are motivated by power, blue who want intimacy, white who just want peace, and yellow who are always looking for fun. Which one are you, and which one do you think the stubborn person you are dealing with is? This is your moment to take a giant step!
Now, knowing our motives, what can we change about our behavior to foster a better working relationship with our stubborn co-worker?
Literary Agent | Human Behavior Specialist | Author, “Get People to Do What You Want“
Stubborn people can occupy any place along the continuum of “highly emotional” to “highly intellectual.” The first thing to do is determine where on that continuum your person sits.
The more emotional the person is, the less likely anything you say will matter. If you can’t leave the room, just allow the stubbornness to spill out. Someone on the other end of the spectrum may be using stubbornness as a way to engage you in a debate.
If there is give-and-take in the exchange, then there’s hope for the stubborn person backing off a bit and moving toward conversation.
Melissa M Breyer
Founder, The Hive Law
Fighting fire with fire never goes smoothly
While working with divorcing couples, you find yourself face-to-face with some of the most stubborn and spiteful people. When I’m on the receiving end of that, I’ve found that fighting fire with fire never goes smoothly.
Most of the time, stubborn people are very quick to make a decision. They know what they want and they make it known immediately. So when I’m in the middle of negotiations or simply talking through asset distribution with a couple, I make them pause.
No one is allowed to agree to anything on the spot. Basically, I make sure that my client and the ex-spouse both have time to calmly review what’s on the table.
Sometimes giving that stubborn person extra time to think without pressure, animosity, or time constraints can work wonders on having them ease up a little bit.
Another trick I’ve learned is that timing really does matter. If there is one thing that you know always causes a fight with a stubborn person, then sometimes leaving it for last is a good course of action. For example, say a very hard-headed, stubborn ex-spouse already knows that they want the boat in the divorce. And they’ll fight you tooth and nail for it. Sometimes pushing that off and letting them have little wins along the way will soften them to the idea that perhaps you should get the boat.
Letting them have some victories might just do the trick. Being stubborn isn’t always about the thing itself; sometimes it’s just about being right or feeling like you’re in control over the situation.
Cultivate feelings of empathy for that person
The most effective way to work with stubborn people is to cultivate feelings of empathy for that person.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of that stubborn individual. If we are only focused on how WE feel, empathy is quite literally impossible. This lack of empathy typically leads to escalations of conflict, and feelings of isolation, bitterness, anxiety, and high stress! This, in turn, makes dealing with stubborn people, THAT much harder!
Here are a few ways to generate feelings of empathy:
Breathe, Relax, Listen: The harder we push the other person, the more likely we are to be met with resistance.
Rather than pushing your opinion or agenda on somebody else, try listening and understanding where your stubborn counterpart is coming from. We have NO idea what a person might be going through, their upbringing, how their day is going, or how their relationship is with their family.
If we solely judge an individual based off of their stubbornness in a given moment, we are missing the essential lessons for self-growth and self-development. By placing ourselves in somebody else’s shoes, we will better be able to understand where that person is coming from. This will, in turn, soften our hearts and allow us to develop compassion for this individual’s stubbornness, realizing that their stubbornness is truly a call to be loved.
Be Present: Ask yourself these questions: why is this person being so difficult? Why have they decided to hinder me from moving forward?
Focusing solely on the end objective (i.e. I want to this person to buy this product from me, or I want them to understand, appreciate, and accept my point of view) will only distract you from the next crucial step, and this can result in ultimate failure for both parties. Be present, and shift your focus to what is going on here and now.