More Common Sense Making


Written by Carol Jenkins, PhD, and Tony Bridwell

In an effort to dig deeper on the idea of making common sense more common, I enlisted the assistance of my friend, Carol Jenkins, PhD, to help bring some sense to the mystery behind the lack of common sense. When I first approached her with the question, “Why is common sense so difficult for people?” I received the classic affirming smile, which reassured me I asked an important, yet intriguing, question.

Over the next several weeks, we chatted about various components in common sense, exploring how it is formed in people. Ultimately, our collective life experiences growing up and how we interpret them form the foundation of how we behave and how we manifest common sense. As we mature, we slip into what is referred to as “confirmation bias mode,” where we write a narrative that justifies our behaviors. To each of us, the target of what we believe to be right is what drives our behavior. That is how stealing food to feed my family becomes right. However, not everyone falls into this pattern. What is the difference?

Here is where I love to watch Carol’s PhD brain spin into overload when I ask, “But what is right?” Regardless of the environment you were raised in and your life experiences, is it possible to know what is right? Or, has doing what is right become so relative that it really doesn’t matter anymore?

The Golden Rule is Still Golden

The Golden-Rule, treat others as you wish to be treated, appears in every known world-view. This most basic of ideas lays a perfect foundation for common sense. In an ever-increasing disconnected digital world, our ability to treat others in a manner we wish to be treated is a muscle that may be quickly atrophying.

In speaking with Carol, consider these simple ideas to improve your ability to increase connectedness and better live the Golden Rule today.

Be Curious—Many of us are quick to judge or draw conclusions about the intentions of someone’s behavior. Generally, we are kind when we write the narrative of our own intentions and less forgiving at interpreting others. Being curious allows us to ask the “why” behind the behaviors. Work on assuming positive intent and seeking understanding versus jumping to conclusions.

Be Forgiving—Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, and we are all on different journeys. Make an effort to understand things from the other person’s perspective, and be willing to forgive and accept others regardless of their flaws and imperfections. When we forgive the past, we can then focus on the present.

Be Grateful—For those that rarely disappoint you or those that surprise you with kindness, take a moment to express your gratitude. This not only reinforces those behaviors but shows the other person that you care and that you noticed.

Bringing common sense back into a more common practice doesn’t have to be hard. We have to choose to look at our actions and the impact on others versus looking at what others need to do differently. We can regularly examine ourselves by asking these questions: What is under my control to change? How can I positively influence the situation versus becoming the victim, blaming others, or disconnecting completely? We choose to make it hard when we react defensively. Common sense must begin with me. What do I have the power to change? After all, isn’t that just common sense?