[Originally posted on Substack — sign up here]
Conscientiousness is the awareness of how your actions and behaviors are perceived by others.
Everything you do or say in a social context is going to be mediated through the senses of another person — and what is clearly and readily expressed by you may not be clearly and readily understood by them.
Conscientious people are aware of the delta between expression and perception.
To be conscientious of your own behavior and speech is to be mindful of how your actions and words will be received, processed, and internalized.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in the Avatar world where people can hook up their ponytails and experience the consciousness of another being. Until brain-to-brain interfaces become mainstream, we’re stuck with communication, which relies on a ton of intermediary steps on the route from my head to yours.
When communicating, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that you’re expressing yourself perfectly clearly, when in fact you’re failing to get your point across at all.
That indicates a lack of conscientiousness.
You can’t be frustrated by someone who isn’t understanding you if you aren’t putting in the work to make yourself understood. While it would be nice if we could always express our feelings in a completely raw and unfiltered way, our expressions are mediated through another’s lens, and that necessitates a difference between the expressions we send and the messages being received.
Dancing with a partner is a prime example of when conscientiousness is absolutely necessary: a lead needs to give clear bodily signals to the follow if there’s any hope of the follow responding in kind.
To be sure, we can express ourselves in a completely raw and unfiltered way with some people (like our closest friends and lovers), but even communication between people who know each other extremely intimately will often be expressed with a sensitivity to how the listener is feeling and responding.
To say anything conscientiously is to say so with a mind to how it will be understood by…