#362 – Dick Bernard: The Challenge of Change, and "Spin"

Back in the 1970s, when overhead projectors were the way of conveying information, and handouts were the takeaway record from attending a meeting, I once attended a meeting where the below handout left, and stuck, with me. (Click on it to enlarge.)

The premise of the handout is very simple and timeless: change is not only inevitable for everyone, but is desirable, and often essential. It doesn’t take much thought to identify someone – maybe ourself – whose ‘bad habit’ may have all but killed them.
BUT, even if one knows that a certain change can be demonstrated to have long term positive benefits, there is a huge challenge to actually changing the behavior (see the chart). Adjusting to the change, whatever it might happen to be, is extremely hard work until the new behavior has become a new habit.
While change is terribly difficult for individuals; it is far more difficult for organizations of any kind. Change can be imposed by law, threat or whatever, but lack of buy-in is a real problem. A surly undercurrent of attitudes held by people who weren’t sold on the great idea can sabotage change.
It’s even worse when competing ideologies demand change, as is true in our country today. Change is what the other side must do, since we know what is right.
So, politically these days we have constant talk about the need for deep change in how our American society does business. It comes from left, right, center about most everything…. But precious few are talking with each other. More prevalent is talking AT each other. The objective is to win the war of ideas. The win is always temporary. The war is continual.
Almost always this conversation is premised on the need for the OTHER person or group to change. The initiator gives him (or her, or their) self a pass: “if you accept my superior idea or wisdom, and change by conforming to my views, all will be good. But I don’t need to change my own attitudes or beliefs.”
It just doesn’t work out quite that simply. Societal change is a team sport.
An immense contemporary impediment to positive change is “Spin”.
“Spin”, the increasingly black art of buttressing one’s argument, while simultaneously dismissing an opposing point of view, essentially sabotages change initiatives. These can be perceived as positive or negative changes (depending on one’s point of view).
Spin has always been a part of the political conversation, but until fairly recent history, a receiver of information would have at least some assurance that “facts”, while skewed, did indeed exist, and could even be found, to support or refute an argument.
Today, almost anyone on any side of any issue can successfully avoid personal accountability by choice of information, image, expert…. It takes very hard work to find some semblance of “truth” in any political positioning statement. Even ‘truth’ becomes suspect. Most recently, The President’s release of his full birth certificate does not quiet the birthers. For assorted reasons, they deny reality to keep the issues alive.
I don’t think it is possible to find a well known pundit or personality who is ‘objective’. Their bias is embedded somewhere in their writing or script. If we share their bias, we like their thinking; if we don’t, we reject it.
We pick and choose who we wish to believe. “They’re all liars”, I’ve heard a good friend say, then she selects the liar she wants to believe – the one which confirms her bias.
If you’ve read this so far, you’re already thinking of the people you don’t like who are the real culprits in this deadly game.
Best we think of ourselves, and how we’re complicit as well.