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Flexibility vs. Rigidity: What's the Difference?

Copy edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on November 9, 2023
Flexibility denotes adaptability and a willingness to change, while rigidity refers to inflexibility or strict adherence to a set structure or belief.

Key Differences

Flexibility and Rigidity represent opposing characteristics, often applied to describe behaviors, materials, or thought processes. Flexibility is characterized by the ability to adapt or adjust to various situations, while rigidity indicates a resistance to change or adaptability.
In behavioral contexts, flexibility suggests a person's readiness to compromise or modify their stance. Conversely, rigidity signifies a person's reluctance or inability to change their views or actions, often regardless of the evidence or reason presented.
When discussing materials or objects, flexibility often denotes the capacity of a substance to bend without breaking. Rigidity, on the other hand, describes an object's stiffness or its resistance to deformation.
In cognitive terms, a flexible mind is open, adaptable, and ready to assimilate new ideas or viewpoints. Rigidity, in this context, points to a fixed mindset, where an individual is anchored to a particular belief or approach and is unwilling to consider alternatives.
Philosophically, flexibility can be associated with fluidity, openness, and evolution. Rigidity, conversely, might be linked with tradition, strictness, and an unyielding nature.

Comparison Chart


The ability to adapt or adjust to various situations.
Resistance to change or adaptability.


Readiness to compromise or modify stance.
Reluctance or inability to change views or actions.

Material Property

Capacity to bend without breaking.
Stiffness or resistance to deformation.

Cognitive Aspect

Openness to assimilate new ideas or viewpoints.
Fixed mindset and resistance to new information.

Philosophical Link

Associated with fluidity, openness, and evolution.
Linked with tradition, strictness, and unyielding nature.

Flexibility and Rigidity Definitions


Willingness to compromise or change one's stance.
Flexibility in negotiations led to an agreement.


Resistance to adaptation or change.
The system's rigidity prevented timely updates.


Capacity to be molded or altered.
The clay had a high degree of flexibility.


Strictness and inflexibility in attitude or principle.
His rigidity in beliefs often led to arguments.


Readiness to adapt to new and different situations.
She showcased her flexibility by adjusting her plans.


Inability to be altered or molded.
The rigidity of the dried cement was expected.


Ability to handle varied tasks or roles.
His job required flexibility in managing diverse assignments.


Firmness and lack of flexibility.
The wall's rigidity provided solid support.


Capable of being bent or flexed; pliable
A flexible hose.


The quality or state of being rigid.


Readily bending or twisting the body without injury
You can play soccer much better if you're flexible.


An instance of being rigid.


Able to change to cope with variable circumstances
"a flexible and quietly competent administrator" (Jerome Karabel).


The quality or state of being rigid; lack of pliability; the quality of resisting change of physical shape


Capable of being changed or adjusted to meet particular or varied needs
A job with flexible hours.
A flexible definition of normality.


The amount of resistance with which a body opposes change of form.


The quality of being flexible; suppleness; pliability.


Stiffness of appearance or manner; want of ease or elegance.


The quality of having options.
I had some flexibility in terms of whether to stay in a hotel or in a bed-and-breakfast.


(economics) stickiness (of prices/wages etc.). Describing the tendency of prices and money wages to adjust to changes in the economy with a certain delay.


The state or quality of being flexible; flexibleness; pliancy; pliability; as, the flexibility of strips of hemlock, hickory, whalebone or metal, or of rays of light.
All the flexibility of a veteran courtier.


The quality or state of being rigid; want of pliability; the quality of resisting change of form; the amount of resistance with which a body opposes change of form; - opposed to flexibility, ductility, malleability, and softness.


The property of being flexible


Stiffness of appearance or manner; want of ease or elegance.


The quality of being adaptable or variable;
He enjoyed the flexibility of his working arrangement


Severity; rigor.


The trait of being easily persuaded


The physical property of being stiff and resisting bending


The quality of bending easily without breaking.
The flexibility of the gymnast was remarkable.


The quality of being rigid and rigorously severe


The quality of being stiff and not bending.
The rigidity of the metal rod was evident.


Are flexibility and rigidity always opposites?

Yes, in most contexts, they represent opposing characteristics.

Can materials have both properties?

Some materials may exhibit flexibility under certain conditions and rigidity under others.

Can training increase physical flexibility?

Yes, exercises like yoga can enhance physical flexibility.

Can a person exhibit both flexibility and rigidity?

Yes, depending on the situation or topic, a person can display either trait.

Is rigidity always negative?

Not always; rigidity can be beneficial when consistency or firmness is required.

Is flexibility always a positive trait?

While often viewed positively, excessive flexibility might indicate indecisiveness.

Is mental flexibility linked to intelligence?

Often, but not always. It's more closely tied to open-mindedness.

Are flexible materials always weak?

No, some materials, like certain alloys, are flexible yet strong.

Does rigidity help in maintaining traditions?

Yes, rigidity can play a role in preserving cultural or familial traditions.

Can flexibility lead to inconsistency?

Excessive flexibility might lead to perceived inconsistency.

Why might someone show rigidity in beliefs?

Factors like upbringing, culture, or personal experiences might contribute.

Is rigidity a sign of strong principles?

It can be, but it might also indicate close-mindedness.

How is flexibility seen in leadership?

Flexible leaders adapt to changes and are open to feedback.

Why might systems or procedures be rigid?

To ensure consistency, safety, or to meet specific standards.

How can one develop mental flexibility?

By staying curious, open-minded, and embracing new experiences.

Can rigidity limit personal growth?

Yes, a rigid mindset might restrict new experiences and learning.

Do rigid structures provide better protection?

Often, rigid structures can offer better resistance against forces.

Can rigidity be seen as determination?

Sometimes, but it can also be viewed as stubbornness.

Can flexibility in schedules improve work-life balance?

Yes, flexible schedules often lead to better balance and job satisfaction.

Is flexibility synonymous with adaptability?

They're closely related, but flexibility is more about bending without breaking, while adaptability is about adjusting to changes.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Copy edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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