A little conservative, at least on paper.

Well, in talking with another of my co-workers over the past couple of weeks, I’ve discovered something: I’m a conservative and he’s a liberal.

No, I don’t mean that in the political sense, but in the personal sense, in the idea of how we approach the world. In general and outside of politics, being a liberal or a conservative is basically a personality trait that relates to how you approach change. Liberals, in general, embrace change; conservatives, in general, resist it. Now, for many people just describing it that way will lead to them concluding that conversativism is bad or backward; after all, no one should resist change, should they? This is because our society tends towards that sort of liberal idea, just as it tends towards an extrovert idea. But that, of course, doesn’t actually mean that one is better than the other.

So, let’s use myself as an example. When I say that I resist change, I don’t mean that when change is required I resist it kicking and screaming all the way. No, what I mean is that I consider change, essentially, a necessary evil, and so as it is to me an “evil” I try to avoid it when I can. I don’t change things just for the sake of change, or to be different. If things are working the way they are, why change anything? If I have a nice routine that’s working, why change it? Sure, if I need to change I will, and the past year at work can pretty much attest to the fact that I handle change pretty well, but I see no need to seek out change. I change only when either I am required to change or when it’s clear that the change is better. Beyond that, it’s mostly business as usual, and I work better when I can get into a routine.

This, then, isn’t necessarily bad. You can see the risk that I’m avoiding with this, which is that I change something that is working into something that ends up not working, or doesn’t work as well. Since change always requires some sort of resource — time, money, etc — I avoid spending resources changing only to end up either having to spend more resources to change back or ending up in a worse situation and being unable to change it back. The potential downside is that I spend more resources doing it the old way instead of doing it the new way which would save me those resources.

There’s also a relation to “the new”. My co-worker, for example, says that he likes to change the route he drives every so often, just for a change and to see new things. I prefer to take the same route every day, and feel no need to change it just to see new things. The benefit to my approach is basically consistency; I always know where I’m going and about how long it will take to get there. The downside is that I might miss seeing new stores and might miss better ways, or alternate routes in case I ever need it. Neither is inherently better than the other.

So, then, it comes down to what you want. I am conservative in personality because I don’t like change for the sake of change, and my co-worker is liberal in personality because he does like change for the sake of change. Now, this doesn’t mean that I never try something different just to see how it works out or that my co-worker never settles into comfortable routines. Ultimately, for any classification there are vanishingly few that live at the extremes. But, for the most part, the classification is determined by where the tie goes. For me, it goes to not changing. For my co-worker, it seems to go to changing. There’s nothing wrong with either view; it’s just a difference.

And this is an important difference that gets lost in the political wrangling over the terms. So the next time someone is “resisting” change, remember that they might — and likely are — just wondering if it really will be better than the alternative, and argue accordingly.

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3 Responses to “A little conservative, at least on paper.”

  1. Héctor Muñoz Says:

    If society became dominantly liberal I don’t think liberals would like to change back to convervative approaches just for the sake of change.

    I think liberals are change adept for the fact that they are a minority and most of their expectations don’t get done.

  2. verbosestoic Says:

    I think you’re confusing the personal and the political. I was talking about personality, not political view/assignment, so by that logic to say that they’d change back to “conservative approaches” makes no sense; in this case, a “conservative approach” is to change only when necessary and when you know it’ll be an improvement.

    I also did point out that even those who are liberal in their personalities won’t just change willy-nilly. They won’t change to something that they think is worse just to change. Again, few are ever at the extremes. But personal liberals will seek out change and see change as being beneficial in and of itself, while personal conservatives will see change generally only as a necessary evil, and never good in and of itself.

  3. Héctor Muñoz Says:

    Your’e right. I’m not a very good reader.

    Change is costly, some changes that are commonly viewed as positive to society are costly to make and result impractical. Change is better for society as a whole when done gradually. Extreme changes like revolutions often do more damage than benefits.

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