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    Being uncompromising, the cost of a closed mind

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    Robert Maurer
    @robertmaurer
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    The intransigence of the accounting systems of the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War I prevented war neurosis from being recognized as a pathology, despite the fact that by the end of 1914 it already affected 10% of British officers.

    According to a study conducted at the University of Sussex, the uncompromising attitude of politicians, economists and doctors of the time prevented them from adequately addressing this problem, strengthening the attention units for soldiers and, ultimately, generated enormous social stigma as psychological disturbance was associated with cowardice.



    There is no doubt that intransigence can manifest itself at any level and sphere of life. It is true that sometimes being uncompromising is not only necessary but also valuable. But it is no less true that most of the time intransigence causes more problems than it solves.

    What is intransigence?

    Intransigence is a concept that implies not giving in. The uncompromising person is convinced that his or her point of view is right, reasonable, or true. And that's why it doesn't give a millimeter. From this point of view, it has been associated with positive characteristics such as tenacity and perseverance.

    However, the meaning of intransigence is also the opposite of transigere, which derives from the Latin transigĕre and indicates partial yielding with the aim of reaching an agreement, seeking common ground and putting an end to differences. This perspective reveals the darker side of intransigence and takes it away from common sense. Indeed, intransigence often borders on stubbornness with shades of selfishness, underpinned by the inability to act flexibly when circumstances change.

    What does it mean to be uncompromising?

    We can all be more or less uncompromising in certain situations. For example, not compromising on defending our assertive rights is good. We can also demand that we be treated with respect and dignity. Or hold a firm and unshakeable stance against violence. But we must be careful not to become uncompromising.



    In these cases, intransigence is linked to the desire not to compromise with the other. It is hiding behind our position using our beliefs and ideas as weapons without the slightest intention of building bridges. As a result, uncompromising people often develop a psychological pattern: they become reluctant to adapt their worldview to reality.

    Indeed, in many cases "the uncompromising attitude is more indicative of inner uncertainty than of deep conviction", as the philosopher Eric Hoffer says. "The uncompromising stance is directed more against internal doubt than against the external aggressor."

    Sometimes intransigence does not arise from solid beliefs, as we like to think, but is rather the response of an ego that feels attacked and wants to defend itself. At the end of the day, sometimes you need to have more self-confidence and confidence to open up to dialogue than to break off communication. Therefore, intransigence can be an expression of the fear of discovering that our beliefs, values ​​and ideas are not as solid as we thought.

    Indeed, we are more resistant to compromise and uncompromising on some issues than others. A study conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that in highly uncertain environments that are perceived as a threat, more conservative people tend to be more uncompromising and less willing to change and compromise.

    From this point of view, intransigence can be an extreme response to uncertainty because keeping our ideas, beliefs and stereotypes gives us a sense of security. This attitude becomes a kind of lifeline and a shield to protect an ego that feels threatened in a changing world.


    This is confirmed by the psychologists of Stony Brook University. In their study they found that the people who entered into an economic negotiation were relatively generous with an average bid of 62%. Furthermore, the majority of participants (84%) accepted at least one split in favor of their opponent; that is, they allowed him to keep 60 or 80% of the money.


    But the deal changed dramatically as the game shifted to politics and values ​​came into play. For almost all political negotiations, the average offer was well below 60% and was rejected by most of the participants.

    Psychologists concluded that "people with stronger moral convictions and more extreme attitudes on a particular issue were more aggressive during negotiations, which contributes to the failure of negotiations." They believe that "moral conviction activates a mentality that makes it difficult to make concessions, even leading people to despise or loathe their opponent."

    Lights and shadows of intransigence

    Intransigence taken to the extreme, like almost everything in life, is harmful. Psychologists from the Autonomous University of Madrid have found that when people manage to distance themselves from a situation, they tend to act in a more uncompromising way, guided by consequential reasoning. That is, they become convinced that the end justifies the means and make more extreme decisions that often harm others.

    The main problem with intransigence is that it often dynamizes the bridges of understanding. When no one is willing to take the small steps necessary to bring postures beyond the comfort zone they were in, the gap is likely to widen. The main consequence of this uncompromising attitude is direct confrontation. A battle - literal or metaphorical - in which there is a winner and a loser.


    However, intransigence doesn't always have to be demonized. There are times when we don't have to compromise. But we must be aware that the situations in which we must be steadfast are not as many as our ego leads us to believe.

    In everyday life, it is usually much smarter and more resolute to flex positions and reach agreements. It is generally better to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us. As politician Barney Frank put it, “The key to understanding the agreements is to remember that the ankle bone is connected to the shoulder bone. Anything can be the basis of an agreement. "


    How to deal with an uncompromising person?

    1. Limit your expectations. Sylvia Plath said, "If you don't expect anything from anyone, you will never be disappointed." While it is very difficult not to have expectations about the behavior of others and how things should go, the truth is that if we expect uncompromising people to put themselves in our shoes and understand us, we will probably end up terribly disappointed and frustrated. intransigence, we'd better limit our expectations.

    2. Manage your emotions and feelings. Intransigent people can make us nervous. It's normal. When we try to be empathetic or have a problem and hit a wall, it's understandable that we get frustrated. But the tension creates more tension. Ideally, you should breathe deeply. Relax. Take the necessary psychological distance. And only then, decide what to do.

    3. Don't take it personal. When we let emotions take over, it's easy to feel attached on a personal level. We can think that the person has something against us, when intransigence is more likely to be a personality trait formed over the years. Instead, it will be much more useful for us to think that life is not fair and that we will have to face many unpleasant situations along our way. It is not a punishment of the universe. It is not something personal. It is just another experience.

    4. Get straight to the point. When faced with an uncompromising person, our first reaction is usually to try to convince them. We use all the reasons. But verbosity usually doesn't outweigh intransigence. The best thing to do is pause for a minute to think about your strongest arguments and what you might have in common with the person in front of you. Focus on this. When we give too many reasons, our interlocutor may perceive them as justifications created expressly to try to convince him. Therefore, it is best to keep communication clear and concise.

    5. Point out uncompromising behavior. Sometimes pointing out to the other person that they are uncompromising can be the key to overcoming the barrier. To keep her from getting defensive, it's important to encourage empathy and avoid recriminations or any hints of aggression. You just have to limit yourself to pointing out, without trying to blame him, how this intransigence is affecting you or explaining the future consequences.

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