Flip-flop or Breakthrough?

Posted by jlubans on October 01, 2013

20131001-Tergiversation by Chris Pyle .jpg
Caption: Mouse Pad –“Tergiversation” by Chris Pyle

“Tergiversation” was a recent Word-of-the-Day. It means a couple things: evasion of straightforward action and/or desertion of a cause or position. In any case, the word implies slippery behavior.

The word was new to me. I’ve done my share of tergiversation and I see it practiced daily by both the mighty and the humble. What caught my attention was Merriam-Webster’s enlightening example of the word’s use culled from the “Independent” (UK) newspaper:
"A man is allowed to change his mind—even in the world of politics…. All we can reasonably demand of those engaging in such tergiversations is that they have pondered deeply and, perhaps, even in a principled way about their change of position."

I think changing one's mind has gotten a bad reputation. Women are sometimes given a sexist pass. Hah!
A change of one’s mind need not be a form of pussyfooting around, of sitting-on the-fence, of shilly-shallying, of hemming and hawing; no, as the example suggests, having “pondered deeply”, a change of mind can be indeed the honorable option.

On an occasion, I find myself clinging to a decision that is no longer as substantial as I first thought; if it had “legs”, they’re getting shorter, not longer. In one instance, I persisted in my folly because I did not like the person making the counter-proposal. Kinda petty, I know. What did Alexander Pope say? Something about erring and forgiving?
Worse, I was somewhat embarrassed because while I thought my decision was OK, I really had not done my homework - yes, I have been known to shoot from the hip and to fly by the seat of my pants. I have found through trial and error that when I consider the ramifications, the implications, and the several consequences of a decision – before taking it - the better I can explain why something should be done a particular way. Interestingly, my having an in-depth understanding actually allows me then to be more open to other views. Why? Because I feel less vulnerable to looking foolish or ill prepared. And, when I have an in depth understanding of a decision, I feel better able to consider a counter proposal; I am less on the defensive. If that sounds like collaboration, you are right. When both sides are well prepared, then collaboration may well produce a third, vastly superior idea.

Leading from the Middle Library of the Week:
Southeastern Louisiana University.
Theory X says: Order a copy now and I'll be checking back with you today! Theory Y suggests: You might want to consider ordering a copy for your library. Let me know what you think.

Copyright John Lubans 2013

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