Personal Rigidity

When we talk about Personality, rigidity occupies a significant place. It is responsible for the consistency of personality and without this, the behavior maybe unstable. In its negative form, it may incapacitate the individual from making appropriate flexible adjustment in life situations.

In Psychology rigidity refers to an obstinate inability to yield, a refusal to appreciate another person’s viewpoint or emotions, characterized by a lack of empathy (Wikipedia). Rigidity can be conceived as a choice tendency of an individual to adhere to a type of behavior, set or developed by him. The question here is not “why do people persist in behavior when it is no longer useful?” but the question is “why do people persist in behavior when they can behave in a non-rigid manner?” Rigidity might be indicative of significant and consistent pattern of behavior in life situations.

Various psychologists like Lewin, Luchins, Horowitz et al have conducted various studies and have shown significant relationship between rigidity and the motivational aspects of behavior. There is an element of involvement in this behavior and consequently it is likely to be significant to the rigid individual. By sticking to that behavior she indicates the extent to which the behavior is significant to her whereas a non-rigid individual, who is not keen on sticking to it, does not attach so much importance to it. The rigid individual is not merely consistent in his behavior but makes efforts to maintain it. And even under conditions such as anxiety, stress, etc… rigidity takes the form of a restricted behavior. The rigid individual adheres to his behavior on his own.

In an attempt to understand this theory in real life, I observed a decent set of people around me at work and home and have listed below my observations (not verified using any psychology tests)

  • Rigid individuals have difficulty with relationships because they lack the ability to see someone else’s point of view. They have a hard time bending to make room for another person
  • Rigid individuals ability to stay with uncomfortable experiences is low
  • Rigid individuals tend to realize what they have set for themselves i.e. goals and they are expected to exhibit a tendency to reach a goal by being performance oriented. They attach a significance to the task and try to satisfy their ego
  • Rigid individuals adhere to a behavior, and hence even if they are provided with confusing requirements, they will efficiently make efforts to understand them. They somehow are at an advantageous position in any learning situation
  • Rigid individuals show less vacillation than the non-rigid individuals wrt their characteristics
  • Rigid individuals are different from stubborn individuals. While it takes time, these individuals can gradually learn to make transitions and understand change as a comfortable part of life. They can learn to practice empathetic and calm approaches to their emotions.

I am not advocating extreme rigidity here but at the same time I am not in the favor of extreme flexibility (non-rigid) behavior. I consider some level of rigidity is necessary in normal life situations. Persistence of purpose, consistency of conduct etc… are required and these are a few positive aspects of rigidity.

By Vandana S Chawla
Principal Consultant – IndiHire

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