February 6, 2008

Common Sense Is Not Instinct

Common sense is acquired knowledge. Unlike instinct, you are not born with it. Common sense is unique for each individual.

Most of us have gone through the frustration of dealing with people who do not seem to have common sense. Very often, common sense appears to be most uncommon and rare. Unfortunately it is true. Common sense is very uncommon. This is because what is common for you may not be common for someone else. Common sense is something that is acquired through experience. Since everyone goes through different experiences in life, common sense for each person is unique.

In England, it is common sense that shoes left outside the door by hotel guests need polishing, whereas in US the common sense is to throw them in trash. For the Japanese it is common sense to sit on floor if all chairs are taken, whereas for the French it is common sense to stand along the sides. For young drivers it is common sense to speed up on wide open roads, whereas for aged drivers it is common sense to drive near the kerb and make place for speeding cars. For most doctors, it is common sense to listen carefully to the patient, whereas for most lawyers it is common sense that their clients listen to them carefully.

Common sense varies not only by nationality, culture, age or profession; but also by education, upbringing, neighborhood, work place, etc. etc. Essentially everything that you experience in life shapes what you consider as common sense. Since all of us go through unique set of experiences in life, what we consider as common sense is also unique.

Whenever you come across someone, who does not seem to have common sense, look carefully. You will see a person who is different from you. There is no reason why your commons sense should be common for him or her.


Anonymous said...


You're 100% right.. What makes us different from others is our experience, knowledge, education, belief,etc.... and that makes us unique in this world. These things shapes our personality, and what we consider as common sense, is really very uncommon, because of this.

Merging Point said...

very true! what can strike us easy cant reach the other mind and it makes us wonder, Does he have any commonsense? The uncommon can even make us consider the other as senseless person.
Also, may be fear can also act as a factor for a person to slip into uncommon personality.

Mindful Mimi said...

I agree with you. I live in a tiny country in Europe which has more foreigners than locals. So common sense is very uncommon over here. What goes for one nationality upsets many others and vice versa. I guess we just have to be open enough to see the diversity, see the adventure down the road of someone else's point of view.

Aseem said...

The difference in personalities is what brings color to life. It would be so boring if everyone thought in exactly the same way.

Aseem said...

merging point:
I like your perspective about fear making a difference. Surely it is possible for common sense to be uncommon simply because one person is behaving aggressively and thinking accordingly, whereas the other person is thinking defensively due to fear.

Aseem said...

mindful mimi,
there is a lot of beauty in diversity. Similar and regular stuff is boring. I wish more people would see adventure in diversity like you do. To me thats a great way of being.
All the best.

alok said...

a good post. It reminds me of a distinguished chief Guest in a conference where i was present. He said, "Biggest sense is common sense." I too believe "common sense" implies "logical thinking". Many a times it happens tht v feel a situation or a task is complex bt infact it can be easily solved by applying "common sense".

Unknown said...

I like your blog and look forward to the notification that "Aseem has a new post."
Debi McSwain

Anon A. Mus said...

Based on your examples, I think you're confusing common sense (which is really about thinking in terms of one's survival) with cultural behavior. Sitting on the floor verse standing along the sides of the room has nothing to do with common sense.

Imagine wearing black clothes at night while walking on a unlit highway. Common sense would say that you should walk on the grassy shoulder out of traffic's way instead of on the middle of the road. It would also dictate that you wear something reflective or carry a flashlight. Or better yet, stay home.

I see plenty of people filling their cars with gasoline. Common sense would say that you keep all sparks and flames away from you. Yet, how many times have you seen a lit cigarette dangling from their lips as they pump away?

Common sense isn't about nationality or customs. It's really about that sense of not doing something stupid that would endanger ourselves or those around us. Perhaps the difficult in this "Common sense" is that it requires us to think about our action and to be mindful of ourselves and others. Unfortunately, most people seem to be more common in the fact they don't think before they act.

Anonymous said...

Well I think there are 2 types of people.

Highly educated people who have very little common sense.

And not very educated people that have a whole lot of common sense.

It has been my experience that people fall in either two of the catagories.

what is education anyway ?

Aseem said...

Hi Anon,

Lets say that a new tribe got discovered somewhere in the Amazon forest. People there have no idea of the world outside the forest.

If I bring one of them to the city. Anything that we consider as common sense for survival in the city will be alien to him. e.g. he might walk in the middle of the road, till some car almost runs him down (this experience will put some common sense in him).

On the other hand if I visit him, I would be very uncomfortable since I do not have the common sense required to survive in a jungle.

There is really no "right point of view", each point of view is a diffrent dimension of looking at something. I really appreciate your perspective and the fact that certain things, such as what you have mentioned, are so basic that it should be common sense for everyone, irrespective of culture or nationality.

I just want to add that even "expected cultural" behaviour is acquired, and becomes common sense only for people from that culture. It is not common sense for other cultures.

Thank you.

Aseem said...

Hi Livefree,

Coundn't agree less with you. Formal school and college education is just one, very small part, of our learnings.

The major part of our learnings start from birth and is based primarily on our interactions and experiences with the people, nature and environment around us. And most important, it is based on our interactions with our ownself.


Aseem said...

Debi, thankyou for the encouraging and flattering compliment. It really works wonders for me. Warm Regards.

Anonymous said...

There is also a universal common sense that we all share. However, many people are being blinded by "modern" society and have lost their connection to that common sense that connects them to everything.

virus said...

dude ur so right!! ... wish people really kno wt common sense really is!!!

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