We all know that person… the “my way or the highway” person, the stubborn personality. Sometimes, stubbornness pays off – such dedication to a task can be a real strength. Putting 110% into a big project or practicing free-throws for hours can help you achieve your goals. Sometimes though it is more of a hindrance, potentially wasting time or hurting relationships.
A phrase that is becoming more and more popular recently is “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset”. A “fixed mindset” is often being stubborn – things aren’t going to change, for better or worse. A “growth mindset” is generally the opposite – things can change, if I put in a little time or effort. It is a more flexible mindset. People with fixed mindsets often don’t try new things, assuming it won’t work out. New skills or knowledge are impossible to learn. They avoid challenges that might expose what they consider a weak point. A person who really enjoys art avoids actually doing it because they don’t think they are good at it, or don’t think they can improve. On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset believes that even though it might take a lot of practice, they can improve their skills and learn new things. Growth mindsets are usually considered ideal and lead people to feel more confident. Being stubborn and having a fixed mindset are not always the same – a stubborn person may work very hard at improving their art if they want to succeed. However, when it comes to being open to different ideas, being stubborn, stuck-in-their-ways, or fixed mindset are all very similar.
Ways to try to shift your thinking to a growth mindset:
Instead of thinking “I’m not good at this”, think “what can I do to improve?”
Instead of thinking “I give up, it’s too hard,” think “I can try to figure this out a different way.”
Instead of thinking “I don’t want to make a mistake,” think “I can learn from my mistakes.”
It can seem like a very simple thing, but just changed the way you think about a situation and being open to different options can go a long way. Having a growth mindset can help you think about yourself less stubbornly, but what about with others? When someone isn’t open to hearing another’s point of view or perspective, it can create tensions in the relationship.
Imagine this scenario: Bob says “These are my thoughts on this situation.” Bill says “well, these are my thoughts, and they’re different than yours. Bob, a stubborn person, rather than taking a moment to consider it, says “nope that’s wrong, my ideas are right!” Bill gets annoyed and doesn’t want to talk to Bob so much now.
Sometimes, you need to fight that impulse and force a pause. This can be done by just taking a breath, or mentally reminding yourself to ‘hold on’. Rather than immediately saying “nope!”, just give it some space. Hear the words and the meaning the other person is saying rather than making assumptions. It is OK to disagree, but without full understanding it can lead to bigger arguments.
Like most things, it comes down to shifting the way of thinking. If you catch yourself being stubborn and would like to not be, consider these ideas:
“Is there another possible solution to this problem that I haven’t tried?”
“Are this person’s opinions on the subject valid too?”
“What can I learn from this moment”
*Disclaimer: if someone says something that makes you uncomfortable, you can leave the conversation. Don’t force yourself into potentially unsafe (physically or emotionally) situations just to be less stubborn. You can be the judge of when to be more open and flexible and when you need to stand your ground.