We use the terms in our common every-day language, but I believe we often undervalue the importance of consideration and conscientiousness are to our lives and our careers.
The term “consideration” has two quite distinct meanings. One meaning of consideration is as a legal doctrine requiring, among other things, “Something promised, given, or done that has the effect of making an agreement a legally enforceable contract”. A promise is just a promise until at least one party has some skin in the game. And there is probably a lesson here somewhere, but beyond what I’m hoping to make.
The other meaning of consideration involves deliberate thoughts, words and actions that express a value for others. The Army has written a handbook called “Consideration of Others” which they describe as “actions that indicate a sensitivity to and regard for the feelings and needs of others and an awareness of the impact of one’s own behavior on them”. The program goal is to make each individual Soldier aware that his or her attitudes and actions critically affect unit combat effectiveness. I’m proposing that we need the same sort of consideration in our homes and in our workplaces.
The list of consideration actions, attitudes and values that might get us thinking along the right lines might include:
– Listen intently to the ideas and concerns of others. Actively listen to them, consider what they actually say, help them when they find it difficult to articulate their points and strive to identify what they are feeling.
– Be patient with others. Even when you feel frustrated or overwhelmed, don’t let negative emotions overflow onto this innocent person. Patients means you give others time to explain themselves to you fully.
– Be discrete at a rule, not as an exception. Even when something you share about someone is harmless, it sends a strong message that you value the this person enough to error on the side of discretion.
– Be empathetic toward others. One of our deepest desires is “to be known” by trusted others.
– Be forgiving of wrongdoing. In many cases, punishment does little more than tell the person that you are not a trusted colleague, and will only result in a more distant relationship. Where you have latitude to do so, forgive!
Conscientiousness has less to do with “what” you do, and more to do with “how” you do it. Being patient (as we mentioned above as an act of consideration) is not very effective if you do it irregularly. Conscientiousness is the personality trait of being thorough, careful, or vigilant. Conscientiousness implies a desire to do a task well. Conscientious people are efficient and organized and exhibit a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement. They are generally organized and dependable and tend to exhibit carefulness, thoroughness, and deliberation. Conscientiousness is one of the five traits of the Five Factor Model of personality and is an aspect of what has traditionally been referred to as having character. Though science has defined conscientiousness as a personality trait (a relatively stable and enduring quality of a person), this does not mean that it is unchangeable.
Most people will stop picking a scab when it becomes painful enough and threatens to damage the skin permanently. If you see clearly the destruction that lacking consideration and conscientiousness have on your quality of life, you’ll leave those little scrapes and bruises alone. Poking and prodding at them only makes them worse.