The Myth of Common Sense

We have all experienced scratching our heads about a particular scenario asking ourselves, "isn’t that just common sense to do it this way" (our way)?

As a strengths practitioner (using the Strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment), I have learned the concept of having common sense is flawed.  We expect everyone views the same things we do when looking at a situation. Although our humanity is common, nothing is common about our unique view through the lenses of our strengths.

Why? We are each uniquely brilliant.  Gallup Chief Scientists, Dr. Jim Harter, and Jim Asplund, tell us the odds of finding two people with the same top five strengths in the same order is one in 33 million.  This proves that individuals’ top five strengths are incredibly unique. Even two people who share four of their top five – a difference of just one in the top five – can have entirely different personalities.

The key point?  One size does not fit all.

If we imagine each of our strengths as a contact lens, viewing a situation through this lens causes us to see things in a different way than others.  In a flash, we tap into those strengths to make connections, to analyze, to view possible solutions, perceive possibilities, new pathways and more.  It is automatic for us, coming with such ease and flow, we often take our strengths for granted, not properly appreciating them as unique to us.

We tend to assume that what is easy for us is easy for others.  Without the same strengths in the same sequence, this notion is false.

Discovering your unique strengths sparks awareness about the lens from which you view the world, and how your lens differs from others’ perspectives. Knowing this compels us to pause for a moment and get curious about others’ strengths.  What do they see, we don’t or can’t?  Awareness that our lens is different from others’ begins the path to working together more effectively because our expanded understanding of differing views enables us to communicate with more compassion and understanding.

An example of differing views is the themes of Deliberative and Activator.  Those high in Deliberative consider everything with care.  They want plenty of information, time, and space to consider options using a logical, methodical approach. For them, it makes perfect sense to work this way, and they can’t imagine why anyone would work differently.  To bring their full contribution to the table, they also need a logical, methodical approach.  From their perspective, if you think "all over the place" and not in an organized and systematic way, they may consider you to have "zero common sense."

In contrast, those high in the theme of Activator want to jump into action as quick as possible.  For them, doing something is always better than doing nothing. They move people and projects into action.   From their viewpoint, "it’s common sense to do this now."

The more you know about how to apply your strengths, the greater the possibility to enjoy your job, increase your energy and performance, improve relationships, and decrease frustration.  Mastery of effective strengths use requires achieving a deeper level of knowledge.  Do you know what each of your top strengths needs to deliver its full contribution?  Are you familiar with the expectations each one causes you to have of yourself and others?   Are you aware of the overuse patterns (or under-use) of each one?

The next time you judge someone to have no common sense, remember there is no such thing as common sense!  We are each uniquely brilliant.

Called to Coach Recap: Dr. Jim Harter and Jim Asplund (March 21, 2014)

Mia Turpel is a strengths focused management and leadership consultant, and is the founder of Performance Support Partners, LLC.  She helps create joyful workplaces by coaching and training business and technical leaders to discover and apply their strengths effectively to engage themselves and their teams, increase energy and performance,  productivity, customer satisfaction and increase profits.  For more information, visit Mia’s website at


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