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This is one of a series
of brief articles on how to respond effectively
to annoying social behavior. An "effective response"
occurs when you get your
primary needs met
well enough, and both people feel
This article offers perspective
on the trait of "rigidity," and sample responses
you can make to a significantly rigid
person.The article assumes
you're familiar with...
This brief YouTube video offers suggestion for giving effective
feedback to other people.
What does the adjective rigid bring to
your mind when describing a person? How would
you describe the difference between rigid,
self-confident, certain, and
authoritarian? Can you think of someone in
your life you feel is "too rigid" in general or
article suggests ways to respond effectively to
such a person.
Rigid can mean unbending, strong,
unyielding, righteous, fanatic, immovable, and/or stiff. These
qualities can be social assets or liabilities,
depending on the situation. Here rigid means
"thinking, speaking, and imposing black/white
right/wrong judgments (vs. opinions) on
situations, relationships, and
Prostitutes are immoral sluts
is weak and pitiful
shouldn't dye your hair
Bible is God's Truth
and pride are sins!
people are snobs
think of the other guy
Republicans are fools.
Respect your elders!
Overly-rigid people often....
see values and
opinions other than theirs as wrong,
rather than different;
scorn, fear, avoid, and/or reject people who
disagree with them;
tolerance they don't genuinely feel;
may come across
as arrogant, egotistical, righteous,
controlling, intolerant, bigoted, prejudiced, and/or authoritarian;
are apt to
lecture about absolute truths, rather than
may be rigid on
a few topics or many;
hearing other opinions; and they...
deny, justify, or minimize these traits and/or
refuse to discuss them.
Does this sound like
any adults or kids in your life?
Rigidity refers to the way
people think and express themselves on some
topics. When rigidity
focuses on demeaning certain traits, ideas,
people, or organizations, it becomes bigotry
prejudice. The opposite to personal rigidity is
flexibility, open-mindedness, tolerance, and
What Causes "Rigidity"?
Though each person is unique, several causes may
be common. One is being psychologically
from early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse. This can
cause significant shame, insecurity, distrust,
and the unconscious need to control other
people and situations.
(vs. firmness) can be seen as a desperate
attempt to make an unpredictable world
safe from confusion, doubt, and pain.
If I accept that your different opinion may
be valid, then I must face feeling (or being
seen as) wrong / stupid / ignorant /
inferior. Trying to persuade a wounded
person to "be more flexible" is as futile as
using logic to get an addict to choose sobriety
or an atheist to want to accept a Higher Power.
Notice the difference between "Alex is
incredibly rigid (or controlling)." and "Alex is
very wounded and insecure." Which would you
rather be called?
excessive rigidity is a symptom, not a
"character flaw." It deserves compassion and
assertiveness, not scorn, anger, or pity. With this
perspective in mind, how can you respond
effectively to excessive rigidity?
If there is an over-rigid person in your life,
keep them in mind as you consider these choices.
someone is "too rigid," and you wish to
respond to that.
these until they become reflexes...
Stay aware of
the difference between the person and
their annoying behavior;
the time to identify your discomforts - i.e.
how you feelwhen
experiencing an over-rigid person
pronouncing or imposing their "truth" on
you - frustrated? Fed up? Shut out?
Disrespected? Impatient? Numb?
Intimidated? Resentful? Argumentative? Scornful?
Pity? Resigned? Irritated? Angry? Weary?
what you need from responding to the person -
to vent, learn, inform, cause change, set or enforce a limit, problem-solve,
or something else;
specific behavior/s annoy you about the
rigid person - e.g. lecturing,
proclaiming, interrupting, repeating,
finger-shaking, criticizing, discounting
that (a) your needs and opinions are just as
valid as theirs, and (b) respectful feedback
is a gift to other people. Whether they
choose to use it is up to them.
As a courtesy,
ask the person if s/he is open to some
personal feedback. If s/he says "No," you
have a different
challenge (distrust / insecurity ?). If s/he says "OK", then craft
a response like one or more of these,
depending on what you need:
To Vent, Learn, or Inform
experience you as not being interested in
other opinions (on a certain topic or in
"So your main
point is _____________."
Sum up what
s/he's saying in your own words.
"Do you care what I think about this?"
Be prepared for a double message.
"What do you
from me now, (Name)?" (Option - if
you get "Nothing," then respectfully ask
something like "So why are we talking about
"Do you expect
me to agree with you about this?"
"I see this
differently than you do."
You've already told me how you feel about
"How do you feel
about people who impose their beliefs on
"I feel you're saying (or implying)
you're right and I'm wrong. Is that so?
(Be prepared for denial, explanations, and/or
you need to disparage or ridicule other
opinions on this, I feel __________."
"When you start
preaching, I stop listening."
To Cause Change or Set a Limit
"(Name), I need
you to stop telling me what I should think /
feel / do and what I need."
"I need you to
accept that other people can have different
opinions / perceptions / beliefs than
you without being 'wrong' or 'bad'."
respect your opinions. I do not
respect your imposing your opinions or
values on me."
"If you need to
sermonize, or lecture me I'm going to
In composing your own responses, note the
theme of these examples - brief,
sincere, factual, specific, respectful, and
direct, said calmly, with good eye contact.
These will work best if you use your own
vocabulary and style, rather than parroting
Responses to Avoid
How do the examples above compare to your normal
response to an overly-rigid person? Common ineffective (lose-lose) responses
really close-minded and arrogant." (labeling)
hopeless - there's no talking with you."
you think you are, telling me how to think?"
face an honest discussion , can you?"
your way is the only way, don't you?"
up. I can't get through to you." (self-neglect - not asserting needs)
Bottom Line -
you have many useful response-option with
typical over-rigid people! Can you imagine
trying some of these out?
This is one of a series
of brief Lesson-2 articles suggesting effective ways to
respond to common social behaviors. This article offers an explanation for
excessive personal rigidity, why it can be
annoying, and ways to
respond effectively to it. The ways are