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It's difficult to teach common sense

People with common sense see the big picture and think of the details

Women at Work - Kristen Asleson column sig
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This week I visited my brother’s home for a birthday party for his daughter. The party originally was supposed to be held over the weekend, but with the executive orders handed out a week ago, plans changed.

With the flip of a dime, party planning went into full force with kids and adults frantically preparing for a party that would be held in two hours. The two 10-year-olds were given specific chores to complete, and like two wild monkeys they went to work.

And, just as quickly as they went to work, they disappeared outside and became distracted. As two shadows raced by the window, we heard laughter. With spray paint in hand and an old board as their canvas, they were creating a “happy birthday” sign for their sister.

Moments later, the mischievous two reappeared in the doorway. One had spray paint on his forehead. We asked how that happened, and with the response of, “I was testing the spray paint”, we nearly fell over. There is only one way spray paint could appear on a forehead while testing spray paint – it was facing him.

The next event at this party, as we were told by the “party planners” would be a tractor pulling contest. However, rather than a tractor, this involved a lawn mower and their sister in a sled. Hmmmm, what could possibly go wrong?

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This is not the first episode where lack of common sense showed through for these two. Last February we caught them just in time and stopped a would-be “bonfire” as they took a blow torch to the two-month-old Christmas tree leaning against the house.

It took a little regrouping to hide the humor we saw in the painted forehead and get the boys back on track. This happened with two boys, but that means little. This could easily have happened with girls as well, or men and women. At home or at work.

People often wonder if common sense can be taught or learned. To some extent, yes, it can. Unfortunately, it may take more than one trial and error before the errors are recognized and behaviors are changed. For others, their brains automatically recognize what decision should be made and common sense takes over. Instant decisions are made as to which paths avoid negative outcomes.

Common sense is usually developed through life experience rather than formal training. As one develops more common sense, their choices tend to be smarter.

Common sense is one characteristic all employers want in an employee. Business owners often say, “A smart person can be trained to do their job, but it is not so easy to teach them common sense.”

Common sense includes seeing the big picture and thinking of the details. As an example, when my days included someone else scheduling appointments and calls for me, I had a 9 a.m. meeting in the office scheduled. Without my knowledge, I was scheduled for a face-to-face appointment 40 miles away. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, except the 9 a.m. meeting was scheduled to go to 10 a.m., and I was scheduled to be with the other client 15 minutes later. When I pointed this out to my scheduler, she shrugged and said, “Oh, I didn’t think about travel time.” Well, that was obvious.

It's a problem when one doesn’t see the big picture.

Is that a lack of common sense, or just not taking the time to think about outcomes?

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Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to news@postbulletin.com .

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