[en] An Ode to Incompetence

We were in a train, going back home from a hiking trip. My husband shared a story and I summarized it: “Well, there is this saying: never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity”.
My brother corrected me: “Not stupidity, but incompetence”.

Pilatus, Switzerland. By T. Pylak
Well, yes! Incompetence is far a better word than stupidity! I spent some time, just watching through the window, pondering over the difference and savoring the word “incompetence”. Such a beautiful word!
Incompetence is lokal. Incompetence needs context. You cannot say that John is incompetent - it doesn’t make sense. He is incompetent in something. He can have no idea about knitting, engine design or geometry, but be a competent cook, wood-crafter or sci-fi critic. Incompetence is connected to the area it refers to and you know better than to widen it to other domains.
Incompetence is not something to be ashamed of. I am not competent in Swiss labour law - so what? It’s nothing bad. It only means that maybe I would need a specialist help. It happens.
Incompetence is inevitable. You cannot be competent in every domain. You simply cannot. It’s obvious. We have to choose what we want to be competent in, and when we prefer to rely on somebody else’s competence. Well, we’d better not incompetent in our job or daily tasks - but we will always be incompetent in something.
Incompetence is easy to get rid of. You hear “incompetence” - and you know what to do. Some knowledge, some experience is missing. Nothing easier. Just learn and practice, practice, practice. It might take some time, it might take some effort - but the instructions are simple. You can do it!
Incompetence is never justified. If you need to competent in something - because you are paid for it or somebody depends on you - you cannot use your incompetence as an excuse. It’s not fate, not a gift - it’s up to us to fight our own incompetence.
Never think that you are stupid. Are you not competent in something? Well, should you be? If the answer is positive, than you need to work on it. But are you sure you have to? You cannot be competent in everything. It’s ok to say “I am not competent there”.
Your child is not stupid. They are competent in some areas. Maybe gaining required competence in Math will cost them some significant effort. But a child is not born “competent” or not. They become competent when they learn, practice, try.

Encountering incompetence when you need a professional service is bad. The word itself, however, is not bad. It’s great! We should use it more often! Stupidity is a stupid word and hardly ever needed. Let’s exchange it for incompetence - it’s much easier to deal with!


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