Common sense is hard to learn

My friend arrived at the store to pick up the donated gift card for the high school fundraiser. When she announced herself at the customer service desk, she was greeted with, “I’d like to shoot the person who wrote this letter.”

My friend was taken aback and said, “Well, it was me. So shoot me. What did I do that was so offensive to you?”

“There’s no info on the letter for us to contact you.”

My friend pointed out, “The letter has the phone number of the high school and the name of the person to contact. My personal return address is on the envelope. What more did you need? Obviously there was enough info for someone to contact us as I got notice to come pick up the card.”


She got the gift card, then went out to the parking lot to call the store manager. Apparently this wasn’t the first time this woman’s lack of thinking had gotten her in trouble. She was fired shortly thereafter.

Most of us can occasionally put our foot in it. We let go with some off-hand comment without thinking through the probably impact. But if it’s getting you in trouble, you need to learn impulse control — and to keep your mouth shut!

In discussing this mishap with my friend, I pointed out that no matter how many customer service classes one takes, there’s no way to teach common sense. Hopefully, getting fired for too many customer-insulting slips may make the rep be more introspective and realize she needs to change her behavior. Unfortunately, too many people get blameful and don’t see that they are at fault.

So how do you help someone on your staff realize s/he has a bad inappropriate comment habit? You have to communicate the problem to them and work through any denial they may have. Then you have to have them come up with a plan to become more conscious of their word choice and stop before they say something that is offensive. This isn’t easy. If you’re into the habit of speaking whatever crosses your mind it’s very difficult to learn to pause and edit before speaking — or just not say what was passing through your mind.

If you’re managing someone like this, you need to be able to gently point out when something inappropriate is said. Come up with a silent gesture known to just you two in case it happens at a meeting — you don’t want to humiliate them by saying something aloud.

How have you helped others hone their common sense? What’s worked and what hasn’t?


1 thought on “Common sense is hard to learn”

  1. In such cases the most important thing is to be able to control yourself in the first minute. But it needs lots of self training and a “settled” personality. If you can give yourself just a few minutes to diagnose the problem and take a further step to get closer to the other side, and eventually find out the real problem, you usually don’t miss it !
    Yet, it requires great patience based on love, tolerance and understanding “trivet”.

Comments are closed.