Many people get frustrated with those who wander through life oblivious to potential threats or problems and then don’t understand why they’re always dealing with issues that could have been avoided.
If you find that kind of thing infuriating too, chances are you have a lot of common sense.
But to be sure, here are 11 characteristics of someone with an abundance of common sense.
1. They recognize cause and effect.
The average person knows that if you heat a pan of water to boiling point, that water will burn you if you stick a finger into it.
People who have common sense can envision how any given situation will play out, and thus understand the consequences of any action they take.
This will inform their choices—basically whether the thing they’re considering will be worthwhile, or detrimental.
In contrast, the mantra held by those without common sense is “I didn’t think.” They literally didn’t stop to consider how their choices would affect themselves or others.
For perfect examples of this, check out “fail” videos on YouTube. You’ll see plenty of folks who did not use common sense, and instead simply took action without thinking things through first.
2. They plan ahead.
In addition to being aware of the consequences of one’s actions, people who have common sense tend to plan ahead by considering all their potential needs in a given situation.
This way, they’re prepared for whatever may occur rather than being caught off guard if and when things change.
For instance, if they’re going on a trip, they’ll consider all the situations they may encounter while they’re gone. This includes supplies they may need for contingency plans, as well as taking precautions in case something unpleasant occurs.
A perfect example of this would be someone who packs a couple of changes of clothes in their carry-on bag just in case the airline loses their suitcase.
They’ll also keep all vital documents and medications within easy reach, so they’re not stuck in dire straits waiting for their baggage to come back from Guam.
3. They think critically and use deductive reasoning.
People who have common sense generally make fewer dumb mistakes than those who don’t.
This is because they use logic and reason rather than emotion, and they engage in some critical thinking rather than simply following along with what everyone else is doing.
For example, a person with common sense likely wouldn’t buy—or eat—shrimp sandwiches out of the back of someone’s van on a hot summer day.
Why? Because seafood poisoning would be a very likely scenario, especially if said vendor’s van was neither refrigerated, nor particularly hygienic.
Their friends might try to reassure them that it’ll be fine, but they stick by their decision even though they’ll be mocked for it.
Later, when their friends are being turned inside out from shellfish poisoning, they can feel vindicated by the choice they made.
4. They can see the big picture.
People who have common sense are rarely fooled by scams or contagious bouts of nonsensical information.
This is because they look at the “big picture” and consider where this information originates, and who will benefit from those who go along with it.
Take common scams for example. Countless people lose money every year because they fall for scams such as phone calls or emails from those claiming to be collecting taxes, or requiring payments for deliveries.
Those who have common sense will be diligent about paying close attention to the information coming in, such as email addresses, websites, phone numbers, and so on.
In simplest terms, they do their research to determine whether these charges are legitimate. If and when there seems to be anything sketchy going on, they’ll ask for further verifying details, or contact these companies’ head offices for additional info.
In contrast, those who lack common sense will be much more gullible and allow the combination of anxiety and trust to get the better of them.
They’ll provide these scammers with personal information, credit card information, and so on, and then find themselves screwed out of a significant amount of money as a result.
5. They think before they speak.
Not thinking before speaking has been many people’s undoing.
You might assume that it’s “just common sense” to consider one’s words carefully before blurting them out, but many people blurt first, then think, and then their eyes widen with awareness and regret at what they’ve done.
The same thing goes for spilling one’s entire life story to a complete stranger or venturing into “too much information land” when you’re just getting to know someone.
Many people have missed out on second dates when they’ve run their mouths off to folks they’ve just met.
In contrast, a person who has common sense takes stock of the situation and determines what would be an appropriate amount of information to share.
Furthermore, they adjust tone and vocabulary to suit their audience. They aren’t about to swear like one of the Trailer Park Boys in front of their employer or a judge, and they know they can’t discuss quantum theory with the average five-year-old and expect them to understand.
6. They’re aware of their surroundings to minimize potential risk.
Have you ever had a friend who drunkenly announced to everyone around them how inebriated they were?
Or who made a habit of checking their wallet while standing in the middle of the sidewalk?
Behavior like this makes a person an easy target, either for theft or more nefarious situations.
This isn’t limited to behavior out in the real world either: those who lack common sense often share a bit too much personal information online, whether those are personal details or opinions that may come back to haunt them later.
In contrast, those who have common sense take more precautions. They pay attention to what’s going on around them and take note of the people they associate with.
As a result, they’re less likely to be preyed upon and are also less likely to be the victims of identity theft or similar.
7. They’re led by intellect rather than emotion.
Those who are known for having common sense tend to make logical, rational decisions rather than let their feelings lead the way.
This is especially true when it comes to situations where being led by their hearts can be detrimental.
Earlier we discussed how people who lack common sense often get scammed. Well, those who are led by their heartstrings often end up being taken advantage of, whether by manipulative family members or strangers.
Narcissistic adult children may convince their parents to invest in yet another scheme of theirs, for example. Or perhaps someone may be moved by a stranger’s sob story and lend them money that they’ll never see again.
In contrast, those with common sense will dig into a situation and determine who will benefit the most before even thinking about contributing to it.
Feeling compassion for others is all well and good, provided that there’s proof that their need is legitimate.
8. They recognize efficiency.
People who have common sense tend to choose efficiency and expediency whenever possible, rather than making things more difficult for themselves.
Let’s say this person has gone grocery shopping. Someone who lacks common sense will pack everything randomly, dump the bags at the door, and then make 100 trips back and forth between the kitchen and pantry to put everything away.
In contrast, someone who uses their common sense will pack similar things together, then move those bags to their associated areas when they get home.
For instance, the bags containing perishables will be moved to the fridge, where they can all be put away within a few minutes. This saves time as well as energy.
It doesn’t make sense to spin around the kitchen in a whirl when they can use maximum efficiency and logic instead.
9. They draw upon personal experience.
Children are often said to lack common sense because they do things that seem silly, or that end up making life more difficult for themselves (and everyone around them).
This is because what we consider “common sense” is usually informed by personal life experience. Those who are brand new to the world have very limited experience, and thus do things based on how they feel in the moment.
When I was about three years old, there was a power outage at my house. My parents popped me into the bathtub for a moment to keep me corralled while they sorted things out, and since my toddler brain associated the tub with washing time, I promptly grabbed the soap and lathered myself up.
The parentals were furious with me because they didn’t understand why I would do that when there was no hot water to wash me off with. In their mind, my behavior “lacked common sense.” Meanwhile, I simply didn’t understand that no power meant no hot water, because I had never experienced that before.
As you can imagine, people who have common sense draw upon their own memory and experience banks to inform their life decisions.
If the weather forecast says that there’s a 50% chance of rain, they’ll pack an umbrella because, in their experience, that percentage probability means that they’ll likely get wet later.
Furthermore, they’ll wear clothes that are more likely to keep them warm and dry in case of inclement weather.
10. They’re practical rather than impulsive or frivolous.
In simplest terms, they go with the most logical approach, rather than being driven by emotion or trying to reinvent the wheel.
For example, if they’re buying a kitchen appliance, they’re more likely to choose a well-respected brand or model that has plenty of great reviews rather than a newfangled, fresh-on-the-market piece that no one has ever tried before. They know the former is reliable, and thus a smarter investment.
Similarly, if they know a tried-and-true method of constructing something like a fence, which they need to sort out quickly, they know that this isn’t the time to get creative with fun new ideas.
If they mess it up, they have neither the time nor the funds to do it over. As such, they use what they know will work, and save the experimentation for some future, less stressful endeavors.
11. They trust, but verify.
It’s great to have faith in your friends and family and listen to them when they offer advice—but it’s also important to do your own research.
The information they share might have been accurate when they experienced similar situations as you are, but that doesn’t mean that things have remained the same.
For example, your parents might tell you that you should be able to pay your monthly rent with one week’s worth of salary, but the cost of living has changed significantly since they were in similar circumstances.
Consider it this way: if you were researching a project, would you only use one piece of reference material? Or seek out information from several different sources to see where there are correlations and discrepancies?
If you’re someone who’s known for having common sense, you may think that all of this is quite basic and second nature. Amazingly, common sense isn’t as common as you might think.
The best way to cultivate common sense is to gain a ton of life experience—even if that means making mistakes—and then learn from everything you’ve experienced.
By doing so, you’ll be less likely to find yourself in harrowing circumstances later.