Sometimes a person will point out or teach you something so obvious, the knowledge jumps out and slaps you on the forehead. Once you see it, ignorance is no longer a choice. It’s as if a problem you didn’t know you had is suddenly solved.
After realizing this new-to-you information, you may even wonder how you never realized it before. As if it’s common sense you were somehow blind to until this very moment. The person who told you might even find your naivety amusing, or possibly, depending on the circumstances, offensive.
If you’ve ever worked in sales, you’ve probably undergone training for how to overcome a potential buyer’s objections. And if your experience is anything like some of the ones I’ve sat through, then you’ve been repeatedly told to never take no for an answer.
It didn’t take long for me to realize I’m not cut out for that kind of business strategy. I prefer to make a sale through honesty. If the product is truly a good fit for the person, then I’m happy to discuss their reservations. But I refuse to force a sale on someone who clearly isn’t interested and is trying not to be rude. I’m not into pressuring people.
You can imagine then, the struggle of attending yet another sales meeting to discuss new tactics. I sat in one of several chairs around a table in a dark conference room, mentally preparing to doodle instead of taking notes.
The company I worked for hired a man to come in and teach all the employees a new selling approach. My coworkers and I expected another lecture about shoving sales down the throats of unwilling customers. Instead, he told us to think of our clients, and really, people in general, as different kinds of birds. You can probably guess why the staff nicknamed him Bird Man.
The theory involved several types of birds people could be. For instance, if the potential buyer cared more about price and numbers, then according to Bird Man, they’d be an Owl and we should focus on the value of the product to justify the price. If they loved to talk and show off, then they were considered a Peacock, and we should focus on their ego by talking about how amazing they’d feel if they bought it.
The point of the birds was to show us how to apply different selling tactics to different types of people. As he explained this, he said something that caught my attention.
“No two people have the same common sense”
After he described it, it became obvious — almost like common sense. Bird Man pointed out how each person’s unique life experiences are what creates their version of common sense.
It reminded me of a time when an old boyfriend called me late one night. He was at a gas station nearby but his truck wouldn’t start and he needed a jump. Sleepy, and without thinking, I suggested he go into the convenience store and ask someone for help.
My immediate thought as a female was that the clerk would be a safe person to ask and most likely to assist. Not to mention the situation would be resolved faster and prevent me from having to get out of bed, get dressed, and go out to find him.
Patiently, he reminded me that most people feel threatened when they see a six-foot-six-inch muscular black man with dreadlocks approaching them in the middle of the night. Even if he’s just asking for help.
Calling me, his nonthreatening, five-foot-five-inch, blonde, white girlfriend made perfect sense. It’s an obvious answer even. But it didn’t initially occur to me because our daily realities are vastly different.
Hearing Bird Man explain this simple truth was electrifying. His words stuck with me. I did actually apply his method to my sales, but I also heard the words echo throughout my daily life.
Assumptions Are Dangerous
Any time I grew annoyed at someone for their choices or mistakes, Bird Man’s lesson appeared in my mind. I paused to consider that maybe the person I was irritated with didn’t know what I knew, or maybe they knew something I didn’t.
If you enjoy cooking, then things like cracking an egg or slicing vegetables probably come second nature to you. You don’t have to think about how hard to hit the egg on the counter to crack it, or how to hold the veggies without cutting your finger off. But these things can be intimidating for someone who’s never cooked before.
It’s exactly why assumptions are so dangerous. Assuming a person knows something more often leads to miscommunications and premature judgments. When I noticed my thoughts were based on suspicions instead of facts, I try my best to either disregard them or seek a real answer — directly from the person. The simple habit of remembering that my common sense is different from someone else’s actually improved my relationships and increased my overall happiness.
The term “common sense” is deceiving. We assume it’s “common” because most people know it, but the truth is, our common sense is the lessons we learn once we gain experience in something.
The world is already a judgmental place, but it might be a little less so if we remember that what’s obvious to us, isn’t obvious to everyone. We all have different struggles, backgrounds, and experiences which have given us our own unique understanding of the world and how to survive in it.
Instead of chiding people who make mistakes, or those who are ignorant of specific realities, we can share our experiences. We can teach our common sense to others and be open to learning someone else’s. Who knows, maybe something you learn will make your life better.
Previously Published on medium
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