Psych ed: Common sense is sound, practical judgment that’s usually developed through life experience rather than any kind of formal training. Developing common sense can seem like a difficult thing, but you can easily practice using common sense by being more aware and reflecting on situations before you make decisions. As you develop more common sense, you’ll be able to make smarter choices.
Compare the risks and rewards of a decision before choosing what to do. Look at the positives and negative outcomes that could come from a decision you’re making. You can either do it mentally if you need to make a quick decision, or you can write down a pros and cons list to determine what’s best for you to do. Weigh your options to see which choice will give you the best possible outcome.
- For example, if someone offers you an alcoholic drink and you’re too young, the rewards may be hanging out with them and having a free drink, but the risks are you could get in trouble with the law. The best and most common-sense decision is to say no to the drink.
Trust your initial feelings so you don’t over-analyze things too much. Sometimes, your gut reaction may be the best for you to do. Whenever you’re faced with a decision, take notice of what your first instinct or answer is. Think about what good or bad consequences could come from the decision, and if the decision seems like the best one, then make it.
- For example, if someone offers you an alcoholic drink and you’re underage, your first thought is usually that you shouldn’t drink because you’d get in trouble if you get caught.
Warning: This doesn’t mean you should make impulsive decisions. Still take some time to consider what negative outcomes may occur because of the decision you’re making.
Look at your situation from another perspective to think through it clearly. You may notice that it seems easier to give advice to a friend than it is to tell yourself the same thing. When you’re faced with a tough decision, mentally take a step back and pretend that you’re watching someone else in your situation. Think about what you would tell them based on what’s the smartest or best decision for them. If the decision is something you wouldn’t tell a friend to do, then you shouldn’t make it either.
- For example, if you found a jacket at school that isn’t yours but you want to keep, think about what you would tell a friend if they found the jacket. You would most likely tell them to return it to a lost and found, so you should make the same decision.
Ask someone you trust for feedback if you aren’t sure about your decision. It’s okay if you don’t know what to do if you’re faced with a tough decision. Reach out to a parent/guardian, guidance counselor, or a friend you trust and tell them the situation you’re facing. Talk through your possible decisions with them so you can get their input since they may have more life experience and could have faced a similar choice at some point.
- For example, you could ask, “Mom, I’m having trouble knowing what’s the right decision to make. Could we talk about it?”
- Only get feedback from people who are a good influence on you, since someone who makes poor decisions may not give feedback that’s common sense. Gather feedback from peers you hold in high regards, bosses, etc.
Realize that it’s okay to make a wrong decision every now and then. Everybody makes mistakes and decisions they regret, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. If you recognize that you’ve made a poor decision, reflect on it and recognize what choice you should have made for the best outcome. If you ever have a similar decision in the future, make the better choice rather than the one you made the last time.
- For example, if you chose to wear sneakers to the beach and you got sand in your shoes, next time you go to the beach you’ll wear flip flops instead.
- By reflecting on your actions and becoming more self-aware, you will start to make better decisions and to develop your common sense. Understanding yourself is the best way to foretell reactions or results.
- You can learn just as much from watching somebody make poor decisions as you can from someone who makes great ones.
Don’t do things that you know are bad for you. People with common sense make decisions based on what will provide the best, most positive outcome. If there are things that you know are bad for you, such as smoking or driving while under the influence, don’t do them since they can have negative effects on your life. Consider the pros and cons of each option so you can make the best possible decision.
- For example, common sense should tell you that buying something you can’t afford would be a bad decision to make since it will put you in a financial bind later on.
Be more observant of your surroundings. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times and pay attention to how people react around you to specific actions. Use your common sense to make decisions based on what’s happening around you. For example, if you need to cross the street, wait until there aren’t any cars driving by so you’re safe.
- Watch peoples’ faces and body language while you’re around them so you can see how they’re reacting to you. For example, if they aren’t making eye contact or they’re leaning away from you, common sense may be to end the conversation because they aren’t interested.
Pick options that are the most practical in the situation. When you’re faced with a decision, take into consideration the pros and cons of each choice to determine which one is the most practical. Think the options through before you react so you make the best choice going forward. Use your best judgment to make your decision so you’re less likely to deal with negative repercussions.
- For example, if you’re deciding between cooking or ordering food, the most practical option may be to cook since you have food at home and you won’t have to spend more money.
Think before you speak so you don’t say something you regret. Before you say anything that could be taken as offensive or hurtful, consider how it would feel if someone said the same thing to you. If it’s something that doesn’t make you feel good, common sense should be to say something else that isn’t hurtful or not say anything at all. Always rethink what you’re saying to make sure it comes across in the best way possible.
- This also includes sending texts, emails, or letters. Read over what you wrote to make sure it comes across clearly so it can’t be taken a different way.
Accept that there are some things you cannot change. Common sense should tell you that some events happen and you can’t change the outcome, but they shouldn’t have a negative impact on your life. Learn to embrace the outcome by searching for the positives that come out of the event so you can see the bright side and pursue the best path.
- For example, you may feel bad if you did poorly on test, but you may recognize there are more tests you’ll take during the class and you have chances to improve. Prepare and study for the next test so you can do better.
Common sense may vary from person to person based on their experiences and stage of life.
Prepare for things ahead of time. For example, if you know it’s going to get cold out later, bring a sweatshirt or jacket with you when you leave.