Stand up for what you believe in. Hold your ground. Be assertive with your opinions and ideas. But, at the same time, be flexible. Be a team player. Be open-minded and receptive to new thoughts and suggestions.
Are you confused yet?
Being stubborn is one of those characteristics that frequently inspires conflicting advice. Some people say that you should be willful and unshakable, while others assert a more malleable approach is the best way to maintain peace and collaboration in the office.
Well, uh, what are you actually supposed you do here? When the two options seem so opposite, how can you possibly know when you should stand firm and when you should let things go?
It can be tricky—I’ll agree with that. So, to help you through, I’ve pulled together this handy guide to show you when it’s OK to be stubborn—and when you’re just being hardheaded for the sake of being hardheaded.
You Should Be Stubborn When You Feel Very Strongly About Your Idea
You absolutely know that your idea is worthy of some fair consideration. But, nobody on your team seems to be giving it the time of day. Instead, they’re all willing to charge ahead with the existing plan, simply because they’ve always done things that way.
When you feel strongly that your suggestion could make a significantly valuable contribution, it’s up to you to speak up for your own ideas and make people listen. Yes, it can be a little on the aggressive side. But—believe me—if you don’t do it, nobody will.
Even if everyone still opts to head in that different direction, you can at least rest assured that your option was given the thought and contemplation it deserved.
But, You Need to Be More Flexible When It’s Simply a Difference of Opinion
We’ve all seen them—those arguments that go around and around without ever reaching any sort of resolution. These heated discussions typically occur when people are holding onto their own personal opinions, rather than arguing over hard facts. We’re all different, after all. And, we’re entitled to our own views and perceptions of certain situations.
So, if you and your co-worker have different outlooks that are simply never going to fall in line with each other, it’s usually best to let it go and just agree to disagree. Constantly trying to sway that person to your way of thinking is likely to be both frustrating and fruitless.
Plus, if it has little to no impact on the quality of your work or the wellbeing of your team, there’s no use wasting your breath by bickering back and forth.
You Should Be Stubborn When You Foresee an Adverse Consequence
Your team is heading down the wrong path, and you know it. Whether their method is going to cause harm or detriment to your entire company, your customers, or even themselves, you feel like you absolutely need to stand firm and make them realize those inevitable consequences. But, at the same time, it’s a little scary to go against the grain.
All too often, people are too blinded by their own optimism to see the long-term effects of their choices and actions. And, if you’re someone who’s wise enough to think further ahead than tomorrow? You should absolutely share that insight with your team—even if it makes you a little unpopular in the heat of the moment. In the end, you’ll be glad you spoke up!
But, You Need to Be More Flexible When You’re Hindering Progress
I’ll admit that this can be a bit of a complicated one to navigate. Yes, you want to be unwavering about the things you feel passionately about. But, you don’t want to be so stubborn that you hold your team back from making any significant progress—being at a total standstill doesn’t help anybody.
Your best bet here is to use the criteria outlined earlier in order to determine whether or not this issue is actually worthy of your continued tenacity. If it is? Well, slowed progress or not, you’ll feel justified in sticking to your guns. But, if not? For the good of the team, it’s time to take a deep breath and move on—as difficult as that may be.
You Should Be Stubborn When Something Compromises Your Morals
You know that queasy feeling you get in your stomach when you know something just isn’t right? Like my mom always loves to remind me, that’s your conscience speaking to you—and it’s not usually something that you want to ignore.
Lying, cheating, stealing—whatever it is, when something comes up that’s totally unethical, you’re always in the right to hold your ground. No, that doesn’t make you obstinate or pigheaded. It makes you honest and principled.
When you’re told to be diligent and persistent but also flexible and open-minded, it can be tough to determine which route to follow in certain situations. You don’t want to be stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. But, at the same time, you don’t want to be a total doormat.
Use these situations to guide your decisions about when you should hold your ground and when you should go with the flow, and you’re sure to strike a sensible and respectable balance.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author