There’s No Such Thing as Being Stubborn
Just because I won’t budge doesn’t make me stubborn.
Posted Feb 10, 2016
Did you just call me stubborn? If you’re trying to motivate me, you just failed. Before you call anyone stubborn, consider this: there is no such thing.
Stubborn is a non-word like "greed." It’s a meaningless term that only exists in your mind. It’s make-believe; it’s simply your subjective perception. Its meaning falls apart when subjected to scrutiny. Think about it; you never call yourself stubborn. No one would ever genuinely refer to themselves as stubborn. If they do at all, it’s because someone important to them has called them that, and they feel guilty that they can’t please this person whom they care for.
Am I frustrating you? If you find yourself foiled in getting me to change my position, and you call me stubborn, then you have reduced your argument to an ad hominem attack. This means that you have not made a convincing argument. Calling me stubborn is you being lazy. Try again, or start to consider that my position might be better than yours.
Just because I won’t budge doesn’t make me stubborn. It just means I’m satisfied with my position. If you think I should do something differently, then you have failed to move me. Try a different approach. Offer something else. Think about what I value. Be empathetic. Put yourself in my shoes, and try to see the issue from my perspective.
What I am is assertive. I’ve given you good reasons for my position. If you don’t like them, then present better evidence to the contrary. Show me the benefits of your proposition.
Throwing a hissy fit isn’t going to change me. You’re taking this too personally. You just haven’t found the common ground between us. You’re not hearing why I’m not interested in your proposal. Why should I give in to your demands? You need to strike a better bargain. You haven’t offered me what I want, or something of greater value to me than I already have. You simply haven’t found the right price (maybe you can’t afford it, and you don’t want me to know). You need to negotiate.
Do you want me to change a habit? Are you trying to get me to give something up, or do something I’m not, like eat certain foods or exercise more? Do you want me to buy, sell, or donate something? Do you want me to convert to your religion?
Maybe I feel like you’re asking me to accept something I consider inferior — that you want me to lower my standards. When you tell me that I’m set in my ways, I retort, "My ways are working fine." Until you prove otherwise, I shall remain content. It could be you’re asking me to give up my power — when I’m already feeling powerless, and you don’t realize what is at stake.
You’re good at name-calling, but when calling me stubborn didn’t work, you called me mulish, pigheaded, bullheaded, hardheaded, dogged, stiff-necked, rebellious, ornery, and heartless. But I prefer to think that I’m tenacious, determined, persistent, and persevering.
You say I’m inflexible, unyielding, and unreasonable; you’re attempting to pressure me into bending because you can’t find a convincing argument. You ask me to be broad-minded or open-minded; you want me to accept your position without critical thinking.
I’m selfish? The fact that you’re the one who is not considering my opinions makes you the selfish one, not me. You’re being a bully. If we always have to do things your way, then you’re a narcissist, too.
You charge that I won’t agree because I hate to be wrong, again I say, convince me that I’m wrong. So far you have not. It could be that it is my core values or philosophy that you are challenging, and you don’t even realize what you must overcome to win your argument.
You say I don’t agree with you because I’m afraid of the unknown. You are correct, and you have proven my point — the benefit to me is still unknown. You have yet to make me know.
What are we arguing about? Are we choosing a movie or a restaurant for an evening we’re spending together? We can resolve this by taking turns. If we're discussing a vacation location, I may compromise because you’re my friend, and I love you, and I want to please you. Are we selecting a house or an automobile in which we’re investing a large sum of money? We should continue examining all the possibilities until we find something that meets both our needs and means.
If you want me to compromise, then offer me better value for what I’m giving up. Flattering me may work because you’re offering the benefit of making me feel good about myself.
If I’m a child, I may not be able to comprehend the concepts you convey. I may also be hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. If you’re my mother or father, you don’t have to get my agreement — just be a parent and firmly tell me what to do. Giving me your reasons for why I have to do this thing will be appreciated. However, make sure you do it without shaming me. Shame is a toxic motivator that can destroy my self-esteem.
Are we discussing politics? Then I’ll look for mutual core beliefs on which we can build a foundation of agreement. For example, I may ask if you believe you own your life. If we can agree on that, then I can proceed to defend my point. If you can’t, then I won’t bother — our base philosophies are too different, and there can be no agreement. That doesn’t make me stubborn.
On the other hand, if you've made a lucid, understandable, argument that genuinely shows how I’ll benefit by changing, and I still won’t yield, then it could be that I’m a passive-aggressive, narcissistic, control freak, who always has to have it my way — but I’m still not stubborn.
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist, speaker, and innovation consultant.