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Can common sense be learned? Can you teach it to someone? Can you learn it from a course, book, coach, blog post, or some other method?
Most of us can recognize common sense when we see it. Probably more so, most of us have no problem at all pointing it out when it's missing. We usually do this by saying something like, “Chandu, what the hell were you thinking?!”
Sure, we've all had a few of those moments. I know, I sure have! I'm talking about the repeat offenders that for whatever reason, consistently seems to make errors in judgment that most reasonable people wouldn't make. I think the first step is to recognize there's a problem. With consistent and caring feedback – and after getting burned repeatedly – someone might have enough self-awareness to step forward and declare “I'm lacking common sense, and I need help!”.
Without taking that first step, I'm afraid there's no hope. However – IF someone is willing to step up and seek help – can we help them? Can you learn, or teach someone common sense?
5 Steps to Improve Your Common Sense
1. Admit you have a problem.
Probably the hardest step of all.
2. Slow down.
Many errors in judgment are a result of impulsive, hasty decisions. If you know you've got a problem with common sense, you'll need to sacrifice decision speed for decision quality. When in doubt, sleep on it. At least one night, maybe two. OK, maybe a week.
3. Bite your tongue.
If there is any doubt that what you're thinking of saying might be taken the wrong way or get you in trouble, then don't say it. Yes, you'll be less talkative, less funny, and find yourself bleeding at the mouth a lot, but that's a lot better than having your foot in your mouth all the time.
4. Get feedback from others.
Before you send that email, have that conversation, spend that money, or whatever other train you're about to wreck, seek out the advice of others. Test the decision with your friends that can give you honest, constructive feedback. Then, make sure you listen to that feedback.
5. Find a role model.
Find someone you admire that always seems to make the right decisions and ask how he/she does it. Walk through a number of examples of decisions they've made, and ask them to explain their thought process.