Obstinacy and Life’s Risk Management

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Our trouble in life is not always outside of ourselves; it’s within us.

We may not always recognize it yet at least some of our most difficult, stressful adversity or crisis is, if not entirely due to our decisions, then at least closely aligned to our contribution to the situation.

One reason we might end up in that uncomfortable, challenging place and a bigger reason we can pay higher costs once we find ourselves there is simply put, our bullheadedness.

“The more invested we are in our point of view as being right — morally or intellectually or practically superior — the more difficult it is to listen to another’s point of view. The more invested we are in viewing the other person as wrong — silly or ridiculous or stupid or bad — the more difficult it is to compromise, change and find a way out or a way through.”

Jennifer Kunst
Clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst

Kunst’s statement might sound like she’s referring to conversations about social issues and politics, yet her smart finding is much more about how we think in general, especially when we don’t like what well-meaning, intelligent, caring people are attempting to communicate to us.

We reject their perceptions, analysis, suggestions or recommendations, not because they don’t know what they’re talking about but because it’s painful to hear what they see, hear, know is coming our way or what they have experienced with us.

They “see” our mistakes, errors, risks and danger and they “know” yet we can’t stand to hear it from them. It can also be at times, yet not always, a case of our ego being outsized. So we react poorly in any of a multitude of ways.

Pride, resistance and independence are powerful traits that can work in someone’s favor yet there will come a time when that cocktail becomes arrogant and dangerous when people wear it as an absolute response for a situation that is crying for humility, learning and adjusting course.

Stubbornness comes at a high price. We don’t think we’re being stubborn and we don’t want anyone to tell us that we might be headed the wrong direction or that we’ve already arrived at a bad place in life.

We willingly choose to pay that high price, regardless of the unwanted and at times, very painful consequences. We can instead choose to not be stubborn when the moment or situation is loudly calling for us to listen, keep listening with humility, learn well and alter our thinking, beliefs, decisions and behavior.

We can learn to and commit to replacing the habit of foolish bullheadedness and the pride behind it with a new habit of realizing that we just might not be pointed in the right direction and traveling the smartest, safest, right roads.

Our GPS might not be working.

Consider humility and flexibility “life insurance.” The inexpensive kind.

Michael Toebe is a reputation specialist who helps individuals and organizations more accurately analyze and wisely, successfully respond in disputes, ongoing conflicts, negotiation and professional and personal crisis. He has contributed analysis and advisory for Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, Corporate Compliance Insights, Physicians Practice, New York Law Journal and Training Industry. He also writes Red Diamonds Essays and Reputation Specialist Essays, both on the Medium platform, voices the short-segment Red Diamonds Podcast and publishes on LinkedIn and beBee.

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Michael Toebe is a specialist for reputation, scandal and crisis, writing on those topics and stories in the news regarding individuals and organizations.

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