Flip Flopping Isn’t The Problem, It’s How You Do It That Is
The previous blog post How Long Do You Wait Before You Admit Something Isn’t Working Out? spoke about Flip Floppers, and about their right to change their minds, while making sure they don’t go about it in a reckless manner.
Specifically, the post notes, “It’s OK to change your mind. Just demonstrate why and what you learned.”
This still rings true, but as with anything else in life, moderation is key. You can only flip flop so many times and with such ease before your credibility suffers.
Usually, politicians are called out the most for jumping from side to side because they deal with issues that are extremely pertinent to public perception and, in some cases, an election. This week, the latest politician to do so was our Commander-In-Chief, President Donald J. Trump.
This week, Trump flipped on his previous stances that China is a currency manipulator, NATO is obsolete, and we need to keep “America First” when it comes to policy regarding U.S. intervention in the affairs of other countries.
Now, he doesn’t see China as the manipulator he charged, he stated NATO isn’t obsolete anymore, and the U.S. military launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into a Syrian government airfield in response to evidence that the ruling regime had used chemical weapons on its own people.
A running joke on the media outlets this week was that, because of such blatant flip flops, Trump’s position on any issue tends to change depending on the last person he spoke to, whether it be any of the various heads of state, his chief strategist (?) Steve Bannon, his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, his daughter Ivanka, etc.
Regardless of all this, there’s no issue with Trump changing his position. As outlined in that previous post, it is important that a leader be flexible in their decisions and policies based on their understanding of issues. If circumstances come up which guide the decider to different position, it’s imperative that that leader have the flexibility to change their stance to match such circumstances.
A major problem with flip flopping, though, as evidenced in Trump’s case, is the strong dichotomy which exists between the fierce conviction with which he takes his initial stance and the subsequent ease with which he switches that position. Granted, with the Syria issue, he didn’t know what was going to happen and what the proper recourse would need to be. But with China and NATO, he could have studied up a bit more as there’s probably nothing major that changed in the make-up of those institutions between his initial assertions and his newest positions.
So many lives are at stake in any one of these decisions — hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions depending on the issue — and other issues on which Trump has switched opinions. At the time, he seemed to assert his initial beliefs to especially fire up his base, but now, with these flip flops, it may be apparent that he was pushing such original beliefs to get a certain level of support without truly understanding the issues.
A few things:
First, this happens in every level of politics. It’s easy to talk the rhetoric as the challenger without having access to the daily information of the office at-hand. So, that access can change minds, perception, and understanding.
But, second, we need to make sure we understand the issues before we push so hard in one direction.
Trump will have his supporters, no matter what, but he was a bit flagrant, irresponsible, and dismissive in the fashion by which he changed his mind.
Hopefully, from here on out, he’ll realize that he needs to know the true details of an issue before driving emotionally into the heart of something so important, ready to flip something so important to so many on its head.
Let’s not play loose with the facts and circumstances when we pick a side. Although it may not be lives that are at stake as it might be in the political arena, there can be other devastating consequences for stakeholders who depend on us.
People remember everything. They’ll remember all your stances and all your faces.
Do it too often or too egregiously and they will start wondering which is the real you.