What Are Stubborn People Like?

We've all known stubborn people. I once remember two people arguing about which one of them was more stubborn. They got nowhere.
What Are Stubborn People Like?

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 08 April, 2023

Dealing with stubborn people can be a real challenge. In fact, this trait causes a person to follow their own ideas or beliefs completely blindly. It prevents them from seeing the validity of other points of view and, in extreme cases, from refusing to assess the evidence that calls into question what they think.

Not all stubborn people are the same. Some are stubborn to the extreme. Others don’t completely close themselves off to the arguments of others, although they’re still really demanding and rigid. Whatever the case, this trait makes relationships with others difficult, whether on a personal or work level.

Behind stubborn people, there often lies a strong dose of personal insecurity. When they meet someone who thinks differently from them, they may feel that their identity is threatened and they react by closing off from other perspectives.

In this article, we look at what characterizes stubborn people and how we should deal with them.

“An obstinate person does not hold opinions, they hold him.”

-Alexander Pope-

1. They’re either proud or narcissistic

Stubborn people aren’t only stubborn because they’re extremely attached to their own beliefs, but also because they have a hard time admitting that they’re wrong, or it annoys them to have to agree with another person. That’s the reason why they often don’t even pay attention to what other people say to them and why they refuse to listen.

For these people, it’s really important to show themselves as self-confident, competent, and capable individuals. They believe that making a mistake weakens their image in the eyes of others. This is associated with pride and, many times, with narcissism. The latter hides a weak self.

The best way to cope with stubborn people is to find a way to offer them a dignified exit. The more they’re attacked, the more stubborn they become. On the other hand, if you value what they say and highlight the (reasonable) points they’ve made while, at the same time, putting forward another perspective as a complement to their ideas, they may react positively.

friends arguing
Stubborn people are usually extremely proud, so they don’t often admit their mistakes.

2. They give more importance to ideal models than to reality

Stubborn people often compare reality with ideal models. Obviously, the imperfect reality always ends up losing against those non-existent schemas. However, they insist on questioning that reality for not conforming to the ideal model and this serves as an excuse to stick to their guns.

This trait leads them to get into many Byzantine discussions, which become never-ending. In one way or another, they’ll always be right, because reality will never reach their ideal model. For instance, if the discussion revolves around a measure to alleviate world hunger, they’ll say that it’s not enough to eradicate that problem. It’s the same with all topics.

In discussions like this, or in situations that suggest this kind of logic, the best option is to try to introduce some doubt, through questions. Ask them about the right way to reach the ideal situation. Suggest that surely it’s progress that something is being done even if it’s not ‘ideal’. They may not admit that you’re right but they might moderate their stubbornness.

Adult daughter arguing with her mother
Stubborn people always want to be right, which prevents other points of view.

3. They build prejudices

Another trait of stubborn people is their reluctance to question their own beliefs, even if there are strong arguments or evidence against them. They usually refuse to consult any sources that contradict them and won’t pay any attention to them.

It could be said that stubborn people make prejudice a habitual way of thinking. By doing this, they obtain the result before carrying out the process. In other words, they have the answer before they carry out the reflection. They usually endow these prejudices with a large number of supposed reasons that support them, even if they’re weak.

Given this attitude, the most appropriate thing is to respond to stubborn people with respect and empathy. It’s not wise to enter into personal attacks or contradict their beliefs head-on. Instead, calmly present another point of view and clarify that it’s not necessary for them to adopt it, but it might be useful for them to know it.

However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that stubborn people also have a really positive side. Indeed, their stubbornness makes them more persevering than the average person. For this reason, they’re better equipped for great challenges. In fact, they’re rich and complex human beings who are capable of achieving many goals, thanks to their stubbornness.

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.

  • Grunberger, B. (1979). El narcisismo. In El narcisismo (pp. 283-283).
  • Novell, J. P. (2003). Obstinación, reputación y efecto rebaño. Revista de Economía Aplicada, 11(32), 97-114.

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