Webster's Dictioniary defines 'competence' as a condition or quality of effectiveness, ability, sufficiency or success. Psychology researchers have come to view competence as a fundamental and universal motivation that has the evolutionary fucntion of helping people adapt to their environment. People's need for competence makes them act in ways that are aimed at developing their competence. Psychologist call this motivation of people to develop competence 'competence motivation'. In Handbook of competence and motivation, authors Andrew Elliott and Carol Dweck explain that 1) competence motivation is ubiquitous in daily life, 2) competence motivation has a substantial impact on emotion and well-being, 3) competence motivation is operative across the lifespan, well into old age, and 4) competence motivation is evident in all individuals across cultural boundaries.
Satisfying the need for competence
The need for competence is an important element in Self-Determination Theory, an influential macro theory of human motivation (Visser, 2010). Much research by SDT researchers has shown that the satisfaction of the need for competence has many affective, cognitive and behavioral benefits. Because the development of competence is so important it is also important to know how we can develop our own competence and helpt other develop theirs. For the development of our own competence we may develop self-regulatory skills and develop useful habits.
For the development of the competence of other people, our children, students, employees, and colleagues, we may deliberately do things that support this process. Factors which are generally thought to contribute to competence support are: 1) providing structure, 2) giving positive feedback, 3) expressing positive expectations, and 4) providing optimal challenges. We may also beware of behaviors and instruments which threaten the perception and development of competence of others. Factors which primarily undermine a sense of competence are: 1) giving negative feedback, 2) expressing negative expectations and 3) emphasising the role of chance and luck.
Solution-focused competence support
Supporting the perception and the development of competence has always been one of the most important pillars of soluton-focused practice. Here are some of the main ways in which this is done: 1) clients are helped to identify and amplify their already present competent behaviors, 2) past success questions and exception seeking questions help identify self generated solutions and competent behaviors, 3) frequent use of direct and indirect positive feedback, 4) the use of negative feedback, criticism and blame is avoided, and 5) coping questions and observation suggestions subtly imply client competence.
Also read: Assumptions In Solution-Focused Change