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How to Deal with Stubbornness

by Elise Wile

Psychotherapist Peter Michaelson defines stubbornness as "a determination to fight a losing battle with reality." This can certainly appear to be the case when your best friend is insisting that, no, she didn't forget your coffee date, you merely confused the time -- when you know that isn't the case. Dealing with a stubborn person takes understanding, self-control and skill, and, although the other person may never change, your contribution to better communication will benefit your relationship.

Give Feedback

Noticing people who behave well doesn't work just for children, it works for adults as well. Most people who have a stubborn streak aren't that way 24/7. When you catch the stubborn person behaving in a laid-back, agreeable manner, complement him on it. Although you don't want to say, "I'm so happy to see you're not being stubborn today," you could say something like, "I appreciate your flexibility in printing this report even though I didn't give you very much notice."

Avoid Arguing

In every conflict, there are areas of agreement, says psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker. Attempt to find common ground, even if it's simply admitting that there is an issue that needs to be worked out. Make concessions if possible. Hartwell-Walker notes that relationships are not always 50-50, but may be 60-40 or 80-20. This is likely to be the case if you're trying to make a relationship with a stubborn person work. Value the relationship over changing the person's mind.

Give Strokes

In a July 2010 article in "Psychology Today," Harvard University communication instructor David Ropeik points out that people who "feel good about themselves are more likely to be open-minded." Numerous studies point to the idea that if you say something affirming to someone before you want them to change their mind, they will be more open to reconsidering their opinion, says Ropeik. So before you approach your wife with yet another possibly futile request to have your parents over for dinner, let her know how proud of her you are for her latest promotion.

Seek to Understand

People don't become stubborn because it makes them happy. Often, underlying emotional issues are behind the behavior. A stubborn person may be protecting his ego or using stubborn behavior as a way of coping with a perceived weakness. This can manifest as a refusal to do anything a person is asked to do by another person. When you realize that your boyfriend is refusing to learn how to drive a car with a manual transmission because he thinks that you demand it of him, you can change your approach and perhaps enjoy better results.

About the Author

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.

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