Do You Suffer Fools Madly or Gladly?

Trigger Question #155

“Geez! I am surrounded by fools!”

. . .

Time was when I thought “he doesn’t suffer fools gladly” was a compliment. But that was before I became a senior executive and an executive coach. Now I suffer “fools” gladly.

When don’t we suffer fools gladly? When we know best, when we have made up our minds, when we don’t need more ideas, when we want to get things done. When we believe our own nonsense.

We don’t have time for fools because we are too smart to listen to another point of view, because we deem the messenger to be of lesser mental caliber. Soon we become so arrogant that we think it acceptable to tell others they are plain stupid.

I know I’m laying it on thick, but don’t be foolish now. Stay with me.

Many of us make snap judgments about people’s mental makeup based on a single ill-thought comment. We find it easier to pass judgment on unfamiliar behavior without bothering to understand it.

Here’s the thing. If you negatively pre-judge someone’s ideas, questions, or contributions, then you are one small step away from being prejudiced against that person. That’s when you find the “strength” to not suffer fools gladly.

So let’s talk about pre-judgment. When a leader, a manager or a boss does not suffer fools gladly, the right question we should ask is this. By whose definition is someone a fool and specifically about what? Who is the real fool here?

If foolish questions make you angry, then you will suffer fools madly. But if foolish questions make you double-take, then you will suffer fools gladly. Because they force you to re-think, to re-evaluate, and to react or respond. Above all, to clarify. Because they humble you into wondering what-am-I-missing-here?

If, after reading this, you still prefer not to suffer fools gladly, don’t despair. Time is on your side, because as you grow older and wiser, with the help of buckets of experience, you learn that:

  • Obvious questions address the obvious.
  • Foolish questions uncover the not-so-obvious.
  • Thus foolish questions lead to unexpected insights.

And guess what? Positive change and ongoing success come from unexpected insights.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

. . .