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VOL. 36 | NO. 26 | Friday, June 29, 2012

Nothing wrong with flip-flopping when new information comes along

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So, I heard today that John Kerry is going to play the role of Mitt Romney in President Barack Obama’s debate preparation sessions. Hearing this made me think of an article I read years ago titled The Dog Handler published in Time Magazine.

The article was about Dana Perino, the person serving as the White House press secretary at the time. Apparently she trained her Hungarian hunting dog, Henry, to retrieve a flip-flop whenever he heard the name John Kerry. Now, I am neither supporting nor defending Kerry; however, I do want to support occasional flip-flopping in certain situations.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could always get things right the first time? Unfortunately, that’s not the way life works. OK, I’ll admit it. I don’t always get things right at first. I bought a Corvair, an 8-track player, a Betamax recorder, an IBM PC Jr., and I always seem to buy Apple computers and iPhones just a few days before they announce a “new and improved” (and often cheaper) model. At one time in my life, I even decided that it was a good idea to be a CPA … and I did it! As it turns out, it is a great idea – for some people – but it was a dumb idea for me. I didn’t like being a CPA. So, I decided to be a teacher (to be more specific, I am a self-designated, renegade teacher operating outside the formal or factory school system). Here’s one of the problems with being a teacher: Sometimes people actually listen to what you say, or read what you write, AND THEN REMEMBER IT, FORRRR.....EEVER!!! As Martha Stewart used to say, “That’s a good thing!” As Martha now knows oh so well, it’s only a good thing for people to remember what you said in the past if you got it right.

Maybe this has happened to you. You make a statement in the presence of someone who took the time to listen to you in the past. The NIGYSOB listener (look it up on the Internet if you do not know about NIGYSOB) quickly jumps in and says, “Wait a minute! That’s not what you said before! You’re flip-flopping aren’t you?” A friend of mine, Kate Harper, relayed a story to me a few years ago that I think offers a near-perfect response to such NIGYSOB-ers. If someone accuses you of flip-flopping, you can always say, “When I get new information I change my mind. What do you do?” I got new information on Corvairs, Betamaxes, 8-tracks and IBM PC Jrs. I don’t still own them just because at one time I thought it was a good idea to own them.

So, flip-flopping is another of life’s dualistic concepts. Sometimes it is OK and sometimes it is not. If you are constantly doing it just to try and suck up to voters, it’s probably going to get you in trouble. However, if you encounter new information and genuinely believe it is appropriate to upgrade your beliefs, why not flip-flop?

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through dmetraining.com.

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