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How to Deal with Intelligent but Closed-Minded Co-Workers

Estimated reading time: 7 mins

Dealing with close-minded people at your workplace is a difficult thing to do. It gets trickier if this closed-minded co-worker is also intelligent and sharp. Persuading such people to alter their opinions and open to accept new ideas is a challenge. Having a conversation with someone who is closed-minded can often lead to undesirable conflict in the two parties. In fact, any interaction with someone who is close-minded is a real test of your patience and your persuasive skills. In this blog post, I will be talking about ways in which you can deal with an intelligent but closed-minded co-worker in an effective way.

What Does It Mean To Be Closed-Minded?

Closed-minded people are closed, meaning that they are not open to any new ideas or positive and constructive modifications in their views or behaviour. They are stuck with themselves and they never welcome changes to their viewpoints. Closed-mindedness should not be confused with narrow-mindedness, as the latter is more commonly associated with an individual’s reluctance to modify his/her religious beliefs. A closed-minded person on the other hand, has a cold tendency to accept any new ideas and is more commonly seen in a working environment.  Such individuals do not care if what they hold is right or wrong. If you compare it with a person who is open-minded, an open person would be someone who is always welcoming to positive changes and does not hold any kind of grudges when s/he is asked to do something never tried in the past. S/he is ready to accept when s/he is wrong. On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to change the opinions of someone who is closed-minded. Dealing with such individuals, especially in a working environment can be painful. Usually such people are also intelligent and well informed and therefore, it becomes even more of a challenge to reason with them.

Be Politely Assertive

You need to be very patient when dealing with stubborn people at work and there will be instances when you will have to take a backseat and simply accept defeat. It is very difficult to persuade and convince these people and at times, it will be best to accept that they simply will not change. It is their stubborn attitude that makes it impossible for them to embrace any kind of change. They will find it difficult to accept what you are saying, no matter how hard you try to convince the, to accept the right ways. If they have achieved some success in the past, they will have stronger conviction in behaving like this in your office because they believe themselves to be the masters of everything. This rigidity of attitude can further strengthen if co-workers who do not ever question their judgment surround them. One effective way to approach such closed-minded colleagues is being assertive in your opinions. You should try to convince his/her in a polite way, not hurting his/her ego while doing so. You will need to bear in mind that most of the times, you will fail at convincing such people and when that happens, the best way for you will be to leave the situation to avoid conflict.

Allow Them Time and Space

One of the best ways to deal with intelligent closed-minded people at work is giving them time to change their behaviour. As time passes, there is a probability that they will accept their wrong and change their views. Put yourself in a workplace situation. You are part of a profiting and successful organisation. You have developed a good plan and you are sure that it will work for the company’s best interests. You share the plan with your superiors, who happen to be closed-minded. They refuse to accept your plan and are unwelcome to any change proposed by you. When you are faced by such a closed-minded attitude by your management, you should try your very best to focus on your point of view. If nothing works then you should give the concerned people some time to think over it and revisit the situation at a later stage. Maybe after some time, they will finally realize that you suggested something with the company’s profits in its spirit. There might be many instances where you will have to come across a closed-minded person. Having a stubborn person around who is always grumbling and not welcoming any change is a difficult thing and it just does not matter how hard you try, you will fail at convincing this closed-minded person. In such situations, it is best to simply leave the person with his/her own views.

5 Golden Rules

Closed-minded people have a very deep depth of stubbornness. It is difficult to understand how some people can be so unacceptable to a positive change. It can annoy you to deal with such people, but the key actually lies in believing that your opinions are right to the core. These closed-minded people can be everywhere in your life. They can present themselves in a variety of ways, often making them look simply stupid or ignorant. Most of the times, when we are dealing with such people, they will give us unnecessary advice on how to live our lives. They might know nothing about you but they will criticise you on each and everything that you will do. They will also judge you for the way you are.

In today’s society, there is no place for a closed-minded person. People who are closed-minded often lack the ability to critically think about things in a different way. However, I do not suggest that you start being unreasonable with them. In fact, you should always resort to educating them on things, even when it might seem pointless or tedious. It will do more good than you might actually think. Below are 5 ways in which you can combat closed-minded people effectively:

  1. Never Get Personal. A rule of thumb when dealing with negative and closed-minded individuals is that you should never take anything they do or say personally. Such people can say many horrible things to everyone they interact with. In case they start lashing out at you and you feel as if you are being attacked by them, you should know that they are just shouting out their own insecurities. Just try to reason with them as much as possible – they might not listen to you but it will still give them a chance to learn something new.
  2. Be Positive. It is also very important for you to stay positive and not fall victim to such hateful actions or words. At the end of the day, this person might not really affect your work. Staying positive through difficult times at work will reveal to you the kind of co-workers you should consider worthy as well as the unworthy ones you should avoid in the future. You should never have to despair for a person who you is surrounded by his/her own personal issues. Never stop loving yourself, stay happy and do not let such ignorance deter your spirits.
  3. It Is Normal To Walk Away. It is common for normal people to underestimate themselves at work when a colleague is coming at them in full speed with their own stuck up opinions, beliefs and things that you never really asked for in the first place. When faced with such a situation, it is more than normal to just walk away. If a colleague is purposefully trying to harm you verbally and you never intended to debate with them then you can simply say “No thanks, I am leaving” and just walk out the door. They do not deserve your time and words because they only have cruel intentions in their head.
  4. Always Be True To Yourself. If you ever face a situation here you cannot walk away, it might be a good idea to be honest. So stay true to yourself and your own beliefs. Let them know exactly how you feel. Even though a peer is trying to attack you at work or make you question yourself, you should remember who you were as a person before s/he showed up and started attacking you with his/her closed-mindedness. Be mindful of any harassment that you might face and do not let that go unnoticed.
  5. Keep Your Personal Life Away From Work. Closed-minded people stop at nothing when their judgment is questioned. If such a person starts asking you about your personal things in your life like your family and friends then do not give into them. They might try to make you look small and weak but you should not let them get away with this. Good way is to keep your personal life private to avoid any such issues coming up. Again, be mindful of any harassment and report it to your manager or HR team at the earliest.

I hope this blog post will help you cope with closed-minded people at work. Remember that every person can change if given enough time and patience. Let us know in the comments section if you have come across a closed-minded colleague at work and how you dealt with it. Be sure to read my blog post on how you can deal with a boss who is always undermining you.

 
This post is part 17 of 18 in the series Getting to Know Colleagues

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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