When common sense isn't that common.

Two good reasons why common sense is the enemy of inclusivity.

Alright, enemy might be a bit strong but it’s certainly not helpful to say equality, diversity and inclusion are just common sense, and here’s why.

Firstly who is the sense common to? You? People you know? People like you? Common sense is often just the rules we understand around social interaction. A lot of social interaction is cultural. For example something like queueing is deemed standard manners in the uk but is seen as odd and overly formal in many other countries.

If you read that and thought, well the UK has it right, it’s a fair system, let me introduce you to an example where the UK might have it wrong. Social touch (with consent) is found to improve social wellbeing amongst other things*. But studies have found that the British like to be about a meter away from other people to feel comfortable, in contrast Argentinians are happy with just 76cm**.

To say common sense, is often to say how “we” do things; that’s not very inclusive at all.

Secondly, for anyone in the crowd who thinks that either, we should abide by the rules of that country, or that there are certain things that are bigger than culture like treating people well, I’m going to have to disagree.

For people who are neuroatypical***, people who’s brains arnt strictly typical, common sense can seem distinctly confusing. Of course there are many ways a brain can be neuroatypical, but understanding social conventions seems to come up a lot****. This can mean struggling with things that would seem easy to a neurotypical brained person, like keeping eye contact, being empathetic or even sensing emotions.

When you talk about human interaction as common sense to people who don’t find that easy, it can come across as deeply patronising and ironically, incredibly uninclusive

Just in case you think you can “just tell” when someone is neuroatypical and therefore make adjustments, you can’t. Unless you are that mind reading fella from the X-men, but I’m pretty sure he’s fictional and therefore unlikely to be reading this. Many people work incredibly hard to ensure they “pass” in social environments. It’s often an exhausting thing to have to do, but we are a long way from our understanding of this topic as a culture and it can feel like a necessity.

You see common sense depends upon a whole host of factors including geography, gender, brain function and social standing. It’s less common sense more common unwritten rules.

For me the question is “Who is it common to?” If you dont really know the answer to that question, the chances are it’s common to you and people like you. Which means that if you are looking to build an inclusive culture you might find common sense is holding you back.

* You can read more about that here

**Read a more in-depth blog that points to the research here

**** feel free to add comment to strengthen or refute this view.

*** if this term is new to you follow this link and find out about how different brains work

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