Intransigence, the Problem of a Closed Mind

Beware of intransigent people. They'll make you lose your cool and oppose everything you say. This is because their inflexibility prevents them from accepting opinions that are different from their own.
Intransigence, the Problem of a Closed Mind
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Intransigence can be described in many different ways. However, generally, these people are believed to be closed-minded. They’re extremely difficult to live with because they stick to their own perspective and refuse to take anyone else’s opinions into account.

Is this a mental 1disorder? No. Because you can’t label a personality trait a clinical condition.

In fact, some people have problematic ways of seeing the world, which affects the way they behave. This means that others have a hard time getting along with them because their personality changes.

Curiously, there are very few studies on this type of personality. Perhaps there isn’t enough hard evidence available. Nevertheless, we’ll try to take a look at the world of these single-minded and cognitively conservative people.

A woman shouting, showing intransigence.

What are intransigent people like?

Everyone has the right to be intransigent when they’re faced with something they don’t like or that isn’t in line with their values. In fact, asserting yourself respectfully is one of the most basic aspects of your social skills repertoire. However, this kind of behavior shouldn’t be constant.

The latter is what defines an intransigent person. They’re persistently antagonistic and have a real taste for conflict. Furthermore, they’re never happy and are experts in the art of stubbornness.

As we mentioned above, there aren’t too many studies on this particular personality trait. However, one area of psychology has shown an interest.

Social psychology has always been interested in delving into the processes of resistance to change (Zuwerink & Devine, 1996). What makes a person refuse to change their mind in order to settle an argument? Why can’t some people take into account arguments other than their own, even when they’re just as valid? A study conducted by the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid (Spain) sheds some answers.

The characteristics of intransigence

We all know someone who’s difficult to talk to and agree with. They might be friends, colleagues, neighbors, or even family members. This stubbornness, combined with selfishness, is known as intransigence. Intransigent people exhibit the following:

  • Cognitive inflexibility. They’re unable to change their way of thinking. However, this ability is essential so people can learn by the integration of new knowledge.
  • Psychological reactance. Brehm proposed this theory. It defines situations where one person automatically rejects norms, suggestions, or statements alien to their own. In fact, they see them as a challenge to their freedom.
  • They’re always on the alert. They’re also very susceptible to other people’s behavior and comments. In fact, they often interpret the slightest thing as an affront to their dignity.
  • Cognitive conservatism. This refers to people who refuse to change their minds and think differently. Furthermore, they demonstrate a clear inability to act flexibly when circumstances demand change.
  • They unreasonably persist with certain thoughts to increase their sense of control and security. This appears in situations where they cling to their ideas, biases, and stereotypes because they want the world to be predictable. In fact, anything different from what they believe and that challenges their own mapped out world becomes a threat, and they react accordingly.

Dealing with intransigence

How do you live with people you can’t even talk to? How can you come to agreements with people who just won’t agree to anything? It seems extremely difficult. However, you have something in your favor. You know where their behavior comes from. Nothing could be more instrumental than this knowledge.

Here are some strategies to help you deal with intransigent people.

How to survive chronic intransigence

Navigating the day-to-day with a chronically intransigent person requires patience and peace of mind. If you lose your nerve, you enter into the realm of the intransigent and you’ll completely lose out.

You need to always be one step ahead of these kinds of people. One way to achieve this is to have the mental balance that they lack. Here are some keys:

  • Be respectful. No matter how they respond, always show them respect.
  • When you’re talking to these kinds of people, assume that you’ll probably get nowhere with them. Don’t get obsessed with trying to convince them.
  • Instead of arguing with them, let them put as many arguments forward as they want to about the subject in question. Generally, the intransigent only provides weak arguments based on their own beliefs. Sooner or later, you’ll be able to contradict them.
  • Don’t bring yourself down to their level. It’s important for you to control your emotions.
  • Establish limits and boundaries. Be assertive in the face of any disrespect. For example, say, “Please don’t raise your voice”.
  • Explain to them in a simple way the effects of their intransigent behavior. Anyone who refuses to agree or respect others will, sooner or later, have to suffer the consequences. You should let them know this.

At some point, you’ll probably find yourself faced with this kind of personality. However, in life, you learn to put up with different types of people, including intransigent people.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Haas, I. J. (2016) The Impact of Uncertainty, Threat, and Political Identity on Support for Political Compromise. Basic and Applied Social Psychology; 38(3): 137-152.
  • Aguilar, P. et. Al. (2013) Psychological distance increases uncompromising consequentialism. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology; 49(3): 449-452.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.