The definition of a fool is a person who acts unwisely. The synonyms are a bit broader but imply the same thing–a lack of intellectual capacity or judgement. Historically, a fool was a simpleton or a mentally handicapped person or a court jester. All definitions imply people being stupid on some level and the use of the word is always a judgement or insult.

I want to find out why we make these judgements, what is behind them and–perhaps most importantly–how to tell if you are perceived as a fool.

In my experience, we use the word “fool” when we project our own judgements or are beating ourselves up about something. There’s an element of embarrassment that comes with the word. It’s use always comes back to a lack of judgement or common sense. When we make a judgement, we are projecting our own values onto others or ourselves and our definition of what our own comfort level is.

Obviously, there are some times in life when it simply isn’t worth the investment of time and effort to try to understand the idiot you are dealing with and that’s totally fair. My recommendation is to be patient with the fool but annoyed with the idiot. What’s the difference? According to George Carlin, it takes you about 8 seconds to realize someone is stupid…either that or they’re full of shit.

If the person is simply not intellectually equipped, then go to a place of acceptance. If/when someone is doing their best, you need to overlook the fact your standards might not be met. If you hired them and they don’t have the skillset to carry out the job function then that is a bigger problem and must be dealt with differently.

In the workplace, I suggest taking the time to really learn about who that person is – do they just bumble along and not care? Is it within their control to change? If you are constantly getting annoyed then ask yourself what is frustrating you. You have to understand this before we can come up with a strategy to deal with it.

Once identified, consider having a conversation with person. A real conversation, not just an offhand comment. If you know you can’t change something then you can change how you react to it. They don’t necessarily need to understand why something annoys you, but they do need to be willing to change. If they are not willing to, then figure out what recourse you have–what you have in your control.

Understand people will not always do things the way you want them to. Ongoing frustration can impact how you approach the person and cause you to overlook a lot of the positives. Not dealing with the situation results in elevated stress levels, diminished productivity and you may end up actually creating some of the scenarios you are trying to avoid.

The stress and energy you feel in anticipation of a negative (annoying) interaction impacts everything in advance of it–you have a charge behind it and this focus of energy takes away from all of the experiences that happen in advance of the interaction. You either need to let it go or confront it. It can sometimes be a clash of values so try to put things in context before addressing a perceived issue.

How do you tell if you are a fool and are completely oblivious?

  • Assess how many times people have come to talk to you about the same thing
  • Notice if people roll their eyes, sigh or shrug their shoulders when you start talking
  • Notice if people are paying attention to you when you talk
  • Pay attention to whether people are dismissive of you

To look at ourselves, we need to have some emotional intelligence (EIQ). If we don’t have any then the chances we will notice any of the above is slim to none and we will continue to bumble along blissfully ignorant of our own idiocy. If you are unhappy, especially with how people are treating you, then look at yourself honestly to see what you are doing to create that and learn from the experiences you are having.

Life is one long learning journey. We have all looked back at stupid things we have done when we were younger and realized that even though it seemed like good choicing (yes, I made that word up) at the time, it most definitely wasn’t. I used to love cliff diving. It was social and fun and through the experience I learned I like adrenaline, but I would never want my loved ones to do it. Part of dealing with fools and idiots is learning about yourself and where your boundaries are. So, be thankful to the fools in your life for giving you the chance to grow and gain perspective.

In the words of Mark Twain “ Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.”


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