This is a common-sense statement, right? Something can only be “common sense” if the ‘sense’ (the knowledge) is common!
I want to challenge you to test your assumptions about common sense. The next time you are irritated because someone is not acting in accordance with common sense, ask yourself: is it reasonable to expect that person to have the knowledge that I believe is common?
I’ve done this and I find that many of my (and others) unmet expectations about common sense behaviour fall into a few general categories.
Common sense is a lot like Tiffany Dufu’s well-named concept imaginary delegation. With imaginary delegation, we assign someone a task but only do so in our mind. We never actually tell the other person.
This is often what happens with the expectations for common sense behaviours in shared environments.
Do you think it is common sense for people to know that they have to empty their own garbage in an office?
Do you think it is common sense to know that you need to call the condo management company four days in advance of when you need the elevator locked off?
Do you think it is common sense to know that vehicles in visitor parking need to display a permit?
Something can’t be common sense if the information has not been explicitly, and in some cases repetitively, communicated.
Common sense expectations often develop from our community norms. Just because a behaviour is expected in your family/ church/ school/ community doesn’t mean that it is ‘right’.
We often expect others to behave a certain way simply because that behaviour is the only option we have known as ‘acceptable’.
And finally, what you think is a common-sense behaviour is often simply your opinion that is based on what works for you. It is surprising how often we start to believe that our opinions are facts.
The next time you hear or think ‘it is just common sense to …’; see if you can step back and see if it meets the test of being both ‘common’ and ‘sense’.