Common Sense is Not Common

Common Sense is Not Common

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAMTM / Published October 2017


Some people have common sense, and others obviously do not. The amount of money a person has does not seem to indicate how much common sense that person will have nor does education. In fact, sometimes, it seems too much money and too much education are counterproductive to having common sense. It was Gunnery Sergeant Adam Howard who said to me (talking about his freshmen USMC Officer Candidates), “Common sense is not common.” Though he is probably not the first person to say it, his words really resonated with me. So, I decided to explore the topic.

Nailing down the definition of common sense is a little bit like nailing down Jello. It has a different meaning to most everyone you ask. Take, for instance, some opinions of Florida community association managers:

“I would say that common sense is the thing that is the most shared in the world. Everyone is convinced they are so well provided with it… However, it has no good reputation because it gathers all the proud and the fools against itself. More seriously, I think it is the ability to use the intellect to separate right from wrong.”
–Olivier C. Maes, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, Llandaff Property Services Corporation

“In the context of condominiums, to be able to rationally think through problems that associations face and solve them with minimal drama. That sometimes requires climbing out of the box!”
–Matthew Edwards, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, Palma Sola Harbour Condominium Inc.

“To me, common sense has to do with seeing and finding solutions to problems without complicating the solution past the detriment of the problem itself.  Being able to see pitfalls in solutions and avoiding them.  Not allowing a perceived urgent matter to necessitate a solution when there is really no urgency to the issue in the first place.  There is also a morality portion of common sense to me that comes into being able to see that the solution does some form of harm to someone and minimizing that.”
–Tyler Brown, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, Errol By the Sea

“Common sense—the ability to look at a situation and determine what is the minimally invasive solution.”
–Sheila McCollum, CAM, CFCAM, Premier Association Management

“Common sense is more than just sound judgment, wisdom, prudence, or careful perceptions.  There is a flavor of an ingrained understanding that permeates one’s thoughts.  Sort of like the old Tennessee horse trainers saying ‘…you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’  Those old boys would go on ‘…that horse just knows what water to drink and when to drink it.’  Those possessed of common sense just know what and when something is right.”
–Dan Gleason, III, CAM, CFCAM, Gleason Property Management

“A deduced notion, active thought, or process that is practiced by most people, generally without debate. For example, the ‘best practice’ way of doing something; like considering options for decisions to be made based on historical success or a desired end result.”
–Cyd Busko, CMCA, AMS, CFCAM, Harbor Oaks Homeowners Co-op

“A good technical definition of common sense is ‘sound judgment not based on specialized knowledge.’  In other words, you don’t need to be a Ph.D. to exercise common sense.  It’s a trait you develop through purposeful awareness and habit.  And I would add to that, that in order to be aware and develop a habit requires self-discipline, the self-discipline to do the right thing rather than doing what makes you feel good at the present moment.”
–Author/Speaker, Robert Ringer

Let’s apply community association management common sense to thoughts from some other famous (and not so famous) people.

Common sense is calculation applied to life.     
-Henri-Frédéric Amiel
If you keep waiving or reducing reserves, you will have to special assess the owners to pay for that component. So, you can pay a little bit along now or pay a big wad later.

Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done.
-Harriet Beecher Stowe
The concrete is falling off the building. Now is not the time to be cheap and hire the contractor with the lowest bid. You get what you pay for, and you’ll most likely have to pay for this concrete over and over again.

Common sense is the ability to see things as they are without prejudice and do things as they ought to be done without influence of any kind.
-Josh Billings
Try as much as they can, the board cannot keep the assessments the same as last year. There is no option but to raise them. Which means everyone pays more—even those board members.

Common sense is the foundation of all authorities, of the laws themselves, and of their construction.     
-Thomas Jefferson
The declaration, bylaws, articles of incorporation, and cooperative documents create an elaborate contract that binds all owners to the association, all owners to each other, and the association to all owners. A lack of common sense leads some owners to believe those contractual provisions in the governing documents apply to everyone but them. All means all, and that’s all all means.

A handful of common sense is worth a bushel of learning.
Being polite, respectful, and engaging in meaningful conversation (which means you listen and ask questions instead of making threats and demands) will likely bring about a mutual agreement or at least a polite resolve to disagree.

Stupid is forever; ignorance can be fixed.
-Don Wood
In today’s world, this is equivalent to “don’t put nude pictures of yourself on the internet.” The internet is forever. Words are the same way; once hastily spoken or written, they are hard to take back. Don’t send emails or texts when you are angry or frustrated!

It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another, but above all try something.     
-Franklin D. Roosevelt
We tried a manager (or we tried a management comp-any) 10 years ago and didn’t like it. Well, it’s 10 years later and a lot has changed, including some of the board members, the residents, the age of the community, and the needs/expectations of the owners. It might be time to try again.

Common sense is the best sense I know of.
-Lord Chesterfield
Taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell. Each of us has two ears and one mouth. Maybe common sense says we should listen twice as much as we talk.

Thomas Edison said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” This describes the managers I know. First, they work hard, giving more than is contracted for during their work week. Second, they develop a loyalty to their communities; and some, when tempted away by offers of more money, stay because things are not finished there yet. Third, they have common sense. They know “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and if it is broke, fix it quickly, with the best materials, the best contractors with the best supervisors, the best financial outcome possible, and the least interruption and inconvenience to their residents and guests. 

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM

Florida CAM Schools

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while at the same time dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999, Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. For more information, contact, (352) 326-8365, or