We haven’t talked about common sense recently. Especially, you might have wondered why, when devoting two full columns to gun control (don’t worry – this isn’t a third), I didn’t propose measures about which the popular, adjectival form … “commonsense” … apply.

I didn’t because I couldn’t – not after having published this way back in November of 1998:

Management Speak: You have to apply common sense to this problem.

Translation: You have to think like me.

“Common sense” is a popular way to affirm a person’s commitment to an idea. It’s a seductive alternative to presenting a coherent analysis of a situation, and far from the only one.

Here’s another: “It’s only logical.” Thank you, Mr. Spock. But even when a proposition is logical (or “only logical”) that doesn’t mean it’s the only proper conclusion that can be drawn about the subject at hand. If it were, we’d have to choose between Euclid and János Bolyai when evaluating the correctness of geometrical formulations.

Different premises, including but not limited to different priorities, lead to different conclusions for even the most rigorous thinkers. So no matter how certain you are that you’re on the right side of an argument, take the time to wonder if a person who disagrees with you might be just as right as you are, only their “right” is the result of having started with different premises, postulates, assumptions, or axioms.

Getting the hang of it? Here’s another one for your repertoire: “Everyone knows that …” In addition to helping you make your point without resorting to the hard work of thinking, it also plunges your debating adversary into the utter despair of deep loneliness. After all, if everyone knows something but your adversary disagrees, they’re the only person in the world who doesn’t belong to the set of “everyone.”

One more: “In reality.” If you’re theologically inclined, you at least might claim divine support for your perception of what’s real and what isn’t. Or, if you’re properly prepared with actual evidence … and even better, if your perception of reality resulted from evidence rather than vice versa, then okay. “The evidence says,” would still be better.

Then there’s the popular “And don’t tell me that …” followed by a point that, had it not been pre-empted and prevented, would have been a perfectly reasonable point to make. But after someone tells you they won’t allow you to even make the point in question, making it anyway just wouldn’t be polite now, would it? Maybe negotiation would work: “Okay, I won’t make that point if you promise not to make this one.”

Finally, no rogue’s gallery of improper discourse would be complete without including the the inverted form – empty arguments against someone else’s position.

“That’s B.S.” is a popular version. It’s okay when it’s attached to a statement that’s utterly preposterous and immediately followed by reasons the statement is utterly preposterous.

Sadly, it’s more often used instead of listing reasons the statement is utterly preposterous. “It’s B.S.” Q.E.D. Case closed.

Bob’s last word: What all of these annoying rhetorical tricks have in common is, as you’ve undoubtedly figured out already, that they’re examples of argument by assertion. If you find yourself at odds with a perpetrator of this argumentative sin, don’t even bother to call your opponent on resorting to it.

You’ll be better off just walking away.

Bob’s sales pitch: Bare Bones Project Management is arguably the most practical, pragmatic, and succinct guide to project success you can buy. You can also buy it in in-person form: Bob will come on site to provide a one-day look at what project managers and teams need to do differently to achieve project success, either as a seminar, workshop, or clinic, depending on your specific situation.

Contact him here to get your planning started.

Now on CIO.com: 7 tools for mastering organizational listening – leadership’s most poorly understood and undervalued responsibility.

The scenario: Your boss (“Brad”) assigns you to lead a solution design team. The team’s purpose is to perform an opportunity analysis for creating an augmented reality app that leapfrogs competitors’ YouTube DIY product support.

The result: Your analysis shows the opportunity is large. Not so much for the app itself, which would be profitable but not earthshattering. But the potential profits to be had from licensing the libraries and other IP that would have to be created to make the AR app real would be enormous.

Pleased with the business case and plan you and your team have put together, you (that’s the plural “you”) present your findings to Brad, who agrees you should submit it to the Innovations Governance Committee at its next monthly meeting.

Which you do. Brad introduces you, your team, and the subject. You begin walking the IGC through your presentation. In the middle of slide #4, Brad clears his throat and says, “I’m not really sure this is a good idea. If you want us to pursue it in more detail we’ll be happy to do so. Otherwise we’ll pull the plug on it.”

Leaving you with your bare face hanging out and without even the semblance of a hint as to what just happened.

What you should do: One school of thought says you should always support and never embarrass your boss. You mumble, “Thanks for your time,” to the committee members, exit the room, and take advantage of Brad’s open door policy to suggest that the same school of thought applies in reverse – embarrassing you in front of the committee damaged both of your standings with its members.

A different school of thought begins thusly: You can say anything you want, to anyone you want, but not any way you want. So after Brad has finished cutting you off at the knees you don’t say, “WTF!?!?”

But you also don’t just bite your tongue. You apply your prodigious diplomatic skills to the situation and say, “Before we wrap up, it might be worthwhile to take just a quick look at slide 26. That’s the money slide. I’m not disagreeing with Brad. There’s plenty of risk if we pursue this. But I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t give you some context regarding the opportunity’s potential.”

Later, after you’ve cooled off, you take advantage of the aforementioned open-door policy.

After that you carefully evaluate if you want to continue reporting to Brad, or whether the odds of other pastures being greener are better than 50/50.

The world according to Brad: While you’re presenting, Brad is reading the room, and doesn’t like what he sees.

Especially, over the years Brad has become adept at reading the CFO, who looks like they’re about to jump out of their skin, probably because much of the estimated ROI is speculative.

Which is why Brad decides that, embarrassing as it might be, cutting his losses, and yours, is the least of the possible evils.

What Brad should have done: Assume Brad has read the room … and CFO … right.

Brad had two right ways to handle the situation. He chose neither of them.

The first right alternative was to soldier on. It isn’t up to Brad to make the committee’s decision for it. Brad’s responsibility is to give the committee important information it can use to make up its own collective mind.

The second was to offer to abridge. “Before we continue, we have quite a bit of ground to cover to be thorough. Would it make more sense for us to skip to the money slide and then cover the rest through Q&A?”

Bob’s last word: Managers delegate responsibility. They don’t delegate accountability. They share it.

So in a situation like this one, having the project manager present was the right decision. Before that, working together to create the presentation was also the right decision.

Trying to duck accountability because someone didn’t seem to like what the two of you have concluded? I can’t speak to the return on investment.

But I’m pretty sure everyone involved would agree that it showed no class.

Now on CIO.com:7 tools for mastering organizational listening.” If you aren’t familiar with the concept, read the article for an overview, and Leading IT: <Still> the Toughest Job in the World, Chapter 9, for in-depth understanding.

.Because I have to: Some policy makers are recommending that limiting school access to a single lockable door would be an effective way to reduce school shooting deaths. Without commenting on this approach’s potential efficacy, there’s a point I haven’t read anywhere that deserves attention. It’s that even if this change in school design worked as intended, its impact in the event of a fire would be lethal.