Seven effective ways to deal with stubborn people

You can't deal with stubborn people; you have to handle their minds.

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Grit is a great virtue. However, it can also manifest itself as stubbornness in some instances. When a person is in that mode, it’s hard to reason with them. So, how do you deal with them and the resulting situations?

Research shows that people are not stubborn all the time. It’s an event, situation, or opinion that triggers the behavior. 

I have also read that stubbornness is a type of pain management. When the person feels threatened by others who disagree with them, they take a stand without regard to others’ opinions.


Let’s look at a recent incident that I encountered in a store. I noticed a toddler arguing with his mom about pushing the cart into the store. The mother was trying to reason that she should handle the cart as it was much larger than the toddler, and they had to maintain a 6 ft distance from all other shoppers. The kid was not budging on his stand and refused to enter the store. I watched while I was fetching my own cart from another end of the entrance. After about 2 mins of back and forth, the mother gently asked the toddler if he was ready for a huge task; instead of pushing the cart, he could push the cart and her. She would hold the cart, and he could push her. The toddler brightened up, and they entered the store.

This whole incident took maybe five mins, but it taught so many great lessons in negotiation and dealing with a stubborn person. The mother was brilliant in this situation and got her desired result without upsetting the kid or raising her voice. She made her desired outcome, a bigger task than what her son was asking for.


What Worked for Me

I have been told that I’m stubborn at times too. So, I’ve had the pleasure of being on both sides, the stubborn one and the one dealing with the stubborn one. You learn lessons on both sides; what to do and what not to do. In my experience, there are seven effective ways to deal with such behavior:

  1. Take a break: Never let an argument go out of control. Take a break from it by taking yourself physically out of there. Grab a glass of water, visit the restroom or take a stroll. Get your emotions in control before having a serious discussion.
  2. Listen: Hearing the person out takes out much of the steam from their argument. It also gives you time to re-state the issue in a more palatable way to the other person. 
  3.  Keep temper and volume in check: Nothing says “I hear you” than a low decibel, soothing voice, with empathetic words thrown in for good measure. 
  4. Timing: Most people have their downtimes and happy zones. If you know someone is stubborn and you need to convince them, find their happy zone and discuss the topic. No use starting it when they are already irritable and annoyed.
  5. Hearing Loss: Sometimes, it feels like stubborn people have a hearing loss issue where they can’t even hear you. For such situations, piecemeal your statements in digestible bits that can penetrate the fog of their hearing loss.
  6. Perspective: Try to look at the situation from their perspective, as you might be the stubborn one in the situation if you are not careful. In that case, remember that you are a better person if you give up your stubbornness.
  7. Our weakness may be our biggest strength: Sometimes, what we perceive as stubbornness in a personal situation makes someone “Persevering” This quality of not giving up makes them successful in life and business. So, don’t be in a rush to change this trait in a person, just because it’s a hassle to make them agree to what you want. As Robert Elliott Gonzales said, “Pigheaded stubbornness is the perseverance of somebody we don’t like.”

What Have I Learned

Be stubborn about what you want to achieve, but be flexible on how you achieve it.

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