A person with a rigid personality is, as the word describes, inflexible. They find it very hard to understand and sometimes even acknowledge the perspectives, feelings, and ideas of other people. It can be extremely hard to reason with rigid people and can make life very hard.

Here are some of the signs that you are encountering a person with a rigid personality, and how to deal with this type of people.

  1. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder)

Most people who think they have OCD do not. OCD is an obsessive disorder, which can escalate to obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is often a result of severe anxiety, and an attempt to control other factors around them.

If you are dealing with a rigid person, they may have some form of OCD that can cause the sufferer to become obsessed with certain variables in their lives. This could be following rules to the letter, having a specific prescribed way of doing things or a focus on perfection.

However it manifests, OCD or a similar condition is borne from a need to be in control. Thus, these people display very rigid personalities and cannot tolerate deviations from their routine.

The best way to deal with people who display these sorts of behaviors depends on your proximity to them.

If you are close, it may help to try and identify what underlying anxiety is causing the behavior. Certainly in terms of a person suffering from serious OCD, then counseling is to be encouraged to help them control and manage the condition.

Should it be something less severe, it helps to try and keep within their limitations to avoid unnecessary conflict. Where that is not possible, they should be encouraged to take regular breaks to avoid becoming overwhelmed and reverting to difficult rigid behavior.

  1. Playing the blame game

People with rigid personalities cannot reason beyond their perspective. There will almost always be somebody to blame for anything that goes wrong. Rest assured, it is never themselves.

This can make a person very hard to get along with if they refuse to accept responsibility where they should, and are instead always searching for a scapegoat.

To try and change an innate way of thinking, a person must offload the tension that is causing them to be so inflexible. If you encounter somebody who is always looking to lay blame, arguing outright is unlikely to resolve the conflict.

Encourage them to take a moment, perhaps to take a walk. Having some time to clear their head might help to let go of the inexplicable certainty that somebody must be held accountable.

It is always challenging to reason with a rigid personality, but being able to diffuse their stress levels may bring the situation back to a manageable atmosphere.

  1. Unattainable expectations

Having a rigid personality is not just hard for the people around them. It is difficult for the person themselves. They may have set criteria and expectations for results or outcomes that are simply not achievable. In this case, they will likely be irrationally upset and disheartened if their expectations are not met.

The best thing to do when dealing with a rigid personality is to try and manage expectations calmly and rationally. They may have been told something which they perceive as gospel truth, so being able to alter their mind-set to accept an alternative will take some real mental effort.

Try discussing what the potential outcomes are, or would have been, both good and bad. Being able to see that there were far more disastrous possibilities that did not come to pass should shed a little hindsight on the situation and avoid it becoming a bigger problem than it needs to be.

  1. Arguing black is white

For a person with a rigid personality, once they have decided something is a fact, they will struggle to change their thinking no matter how stark the information may be to the contrary. You will know you are dealing with a rigid personality if somebody refuses to accept the truth even when it is laid out in front of them.

This type of rigid behavior comes from a need for cognitive closure. They are trying to eliminate all uncertainty and in doing so have settled on an outcome that cannot be argued with.

To try and change the thinking of a rigid personality takes great effort on both parts. If you have something set in stone within your psyche, it takes significant mental willpower to be able to turn that thinking around.

Be gentle. A rigid personality often has a very low threshold for the uncertainty that they can endure. Try to empathize with their way of thinking, and introduce alternative answers as a possibility rather than certainty. This will help their thought process to gradually adapt, rather than a point-blank refusal.

  1. Unnecessary confrontation

People struggling with a rigid personality do not necessarily know that other people think a different way. They may believe that they are right, and feel compelled to impress their views upon others.

This can be a frustrating experience for both people, since one may feel strongly that they need to convey their message. The other may disagree but feel battered with arguments that they do not wish to engage with.

One trick to deal with this sort of upsetting confrontation is to rephrase what the person is saying but in your own words. This may help them to take a step back and hear their argument explained back to them. Always be calm, as raised voices will only exacerbate the situation.

Try asking if you have understood their point correctly, and repeat it back in a slightly different style. This provides a little perspective that may have been missing and can help demonstrate in a gentle way how silly the argument must have sounded.


  1. Psychology Today
  2. PubMed

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Ann Fahey

    This has helped me enormously (sp), I have a boss who is the epitomy of this article, 25 years of working with her. but not I understand her a little better, empathy will help me. Thank you

  2. Marcy

    I know that it can be sometimes difficult in dealing with a person that may experience symptoms of OCD. If you decide to retrain your mind and remind yourself that you are capable of being a team-mate/Leader. In various situations and begin to allow other people to show you how to do certain things in a way that allows less control but meets the demanded expectation you have in getting a certain task completed. You begin the healing process within yourself….

    A person that experienced symptoms of OCD.
    I took control of my mindset and began an awesome healing process.

    Marcella Lynn

  3. Lauren

    I had a friend that was so rigid needless to say the friendship didn’t work so well he wasn’t even married and still acted like he was married when he was in a serious relationship he never made time for me which was the first red flag the second one was whenever I did get to hang out with him it was always in a group that’s another red flag so in reality it was never really a friendship for like two years I was unhappy so I left finally I think it’s best that I cut him off fast before things could get worse

    1. Jean

      I am in something like that now. Would love to chat with you.

  4. Jennifer

    This article has very sound advice on dealing with rigid personalities. All the points describe to a T my management, coworkers and so-called roommate, for example. However, one must assume that people like this will eventually use common sense and come around to empathizing with another person’s way of thinking. Know that’s often improbable if not impossible in many cases. Rigid people can be toxic bullies, and no amount of rationalizing in the world will change them; they have to be very self-aware. It’s all about control in the end, and if the rigid people are your leadership at work, find another job where it isn’t so joyless.

  5. Made A Mistake

    Friendships with rigid personalities is a lot like loving a family member who is an unrepentant alcoholic. You continue to still love these people but their behavior invariably makes them unbearable to be around over the long term. But, unlike alcoholics, you can’t do an “intervention” with them and ever hope they have a “come to Jesus” moment. To the contrary, these kinds of people will never change or accept culpability and to confront them will simply make them double down on their “reality” that casts you as the bad guy and they as the martyr. If you have to stay in the relationship, this article gives good advice, but if you can leave the relationship, do it as soon as possible. Do it politely and make up a nice excuse (i.e. I am moving out of state, I got another job) rather than revealing the true reason (i.e. that they are impossible to deal with), Doing the latter will simply make them lash out and hurt you.

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