michele dempster

If you’ve ever tried to walk through your house in the middle of the night without turning the lights on, you know the benefit of the character trait of cautiousness. We know we need to be cautious when working with power tools and walking across busy intersections, but do we apply the same cautiousness in our interactions with others?

Just as treading carefully can prevent stubbing a toe in the middle of the night, and being aware of our surroundings can help keep us from bodily harm, applying the character trait of cautiousness in our personal relationships can help us thrive and succeed in the most important area of our lives with the people we care about.

Cautiousness is taking the time necessary to ensure the right decision is made or the right action is taken. Each interaction we have with another person requires making a decision and taking an action. The decision is deciding how to respond and the action is the manner in which we respond.

Not too long ago, I heard in a presentation that social media is here to stay, which I am sure we all agree. However, until hearing that statement, I hadn’t given much thought to the fact that we will never again know a society without social media. As much as I enjoy maintaining contact with others and seeing pictures of friends and family, I experience moments of frustration and sadness in the way people communicate with one another over differences of opinions.

I use these moments of frustration to build cautiousness in my own life. Seeing negative exchanges between others helps remind me to stop and think before deciding whether to respond to something I may not agree with. We often forget that just because we see something on social media doesn’t mean have to respond through social media. If we truly want to discuss a difference of opinion with a friend, phones can still be used; or better yet, we can discuss the issue over coffee or lunch.

Cautiousness is important in determining if a response is needed and, if so, what the appropriate response would be. Cautiousness also reminds us to take the time needed to identify our emotions relating to an issue, and determine whether we should respond under the influence of emotion. Additionally, cautiousness is important in determining the words we use.

Recently, I was in a conversation with a friend and they commented that they had been focusing on “responding and not reacting” to situations that come up. I immediately thought of the character trait of cautiousness.

It’s easy to react to a situation and say what we want to say, or type what we want to type, without thought or consideration to our words and our emotions, or how it will be received. But responding to a situation or something we read, takes cautiousness. It requires pausing to give thought and consideration to the emotions we feel and the words we choose.