Have you ever wondered why some people are so stubborn? What causes stubbornness in people?
Stubbornness is a personality trait in which a person refuses to change their opinion about something or refuses to change their mind about a decision that they’ve made.
Stubborn people have a resolute adherence to their own ideas and opinions. Also, they have a strong resistance to change, especially when others inflict the change on them. A stubborn person has the “No I won’t, and you can’t make me” attitude.
Why are people stubborn?
Stubborn people are not stubborn all the time. There may be some specific events or interactions that trigger their stubbornness.
In order to understand why some people are stubborn, we have to first remind ourselves of the fact that most human behaviours are reward-seeking or pain-avoiding.
Five stubborn people may be stubborn for five completely different reasons so without generalizing, I’ll try to give you an idea as to how you may figure out the reason behind someone’s stubbornness.
Rewards make people stubborn
Sometimes a person may be stubborn only because they know that stubbornness helps them get what they want. In this case, a person may use their stubbornness to prevent the resistance that others may offer to stop the stubborn person from getting what they want.
For example, a child may be motivated to display stubbornness when she learns that being stubborn is a good way to make her parents compliant. She uses stubbornness as a tool to get what she wants. Spoilt children usually behave in this manner.
If a child doesn’t get what she wants simply by asking or by other nice ways then she’s likely to adopt stubbornness, unless her parents don’t allow stubborn behaviour. If that works for her, then she’ll continue such behaviour in order to keep getting the rewards.
On the other hand, when parents are controlling, possessive, and make all the decisions regarding their kid themselves, the child thinks that her freedom is threatened.
This is a common reason why, in later childhood or in teen years, some children become rebellious and stubborn. In this case, stubbornness is a defence mechanism used by a person to avoid the pain of being controlled by others.
We observe this kind of stubbornness in relationships too. For instance, if someone told a person that his wife is too demanding and controlling, then he might suddenly become stubborn even if he used to behave normally till now. This leaves the wife clueless as to what caused this sudden change in his behaviour.
Stubbornness and identity
Stubborn people are rigidly attached to their beliefs, opinions, ideas, and tastes. They can’t stand anyone disagreeing with them because disagreeing with them means disagreeing with who they are.
They become stubborn to the point that they don’t even consider the opinion of others because they feel threatened by people who disagree with them.
So, in a way, this is also a type of pain-avoidance. This kind of stubbornness can hamper the growth of a person and badly affect their relationships with people. Some go a step further by totally avoiding people who don’t agree with them just so they can live in the world of their own ideas and opinions.
Hidden feelings of hostility
Some people act stubbornly just to annoy others. You may have caused them some kind of a pain in the past and now they’re getting back at you passive-aggressively. Stubbornness allows them to release their hidden feelings of hatred and hostility towards you.
Handling a stubborn person
A stubborn person can be difficult to handle because they tend to be closed-minded and inflexible. However, if you try to dig deeper and find out the real reason behind their stubbornness then dealing with them will become a lot easier.
You can even directly try to ask them why they’re being so stubborn. This can force them to become self-aware and reflect on their behaviour.
Keep in mind that a stubborn person hates being controlled. So you shouldn’t in any way make them feel that you’re controlling them. If your goal is to change their behaviour then you need to address their deeper needs without coming across as controlling.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve written 280+ articles and published one book about human behavior on this blog that has garnered over 3 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.