We throw the word stupid around a lot, labeling people (perhaps forever). In fact, there are tons of ways to be stupid, and we ought to think about that before we shut someone (including ourselves) down…
Bad analysis is the classic sort of stupid. This is not the stupid of, “if you knew then what you know now,” but the simpler question: “Given what was clear at the time, why did you make such a bad decision?”
Willfully ignorant is the stupidity of not seeking out the information that would have been worth knowing before you spoke up, made a decision or pulled the trigger.
Lack of cultural understanding is often mistaken for stupid. This is what happens when we put our foot in our mouth. Often, it seems particularly stupid when we’re willfully ignorant about something we should have known.
Inability to read people isn’t a form of stupidity, but it can often look like it. Some people are just unable to do this, but mostly it’s a lack of effort and empathy that leads us to not see people in a way others think we should.
Distracted is the best excuse for making a stupid call. After all, when the stupidity happens, it’s probably because we didn’t think the decision was important, and with all the incoming. Okay, it’s not a good excuse, but it’s a common one.
Self-destructive is a particularly widespread form of stupidity among people who have privilege and opportunity that they’re not sure they deserve.
Emotionally overwrought stupidity happens because we’re tempted to amplify and maintain the drama going on in our heads, which distracts us from seeing or processing what we see.
Fear, of course, is at the heart of a lot of our bad judgment.
Unwilling to be right is a form of fear. If you do stupid things, you don’t have to take advantage of the change that would have happened if you had been right.
Slow is not stupid, not at all. It’s just not going to win you many prizes on a game show.
Short-term selfish behavior is what we see all the time from people who should know better. And yet they come back to this trap again and again, because it’s a habit. Day trading, anyone?
Rush to judgment is a particularly challenging variation. Our unwillingness to sit with ambiguity causes us to decide before we should.
Stupidity doesn’t have to be incurable.
Seth Godin has written fourteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and, most of all, changing everything.
Image courtesy of Skitter Photo.