I have an amazingly awful addiction to alliteration. That’s partly why my ears perked up when one of my roommates used the above phrase in conversation. It was a throwaway phrase, but it captured my imagination: what would a conscionable point of contact look like?
You Keep On Using That Word…
In my head, somehow I was thinking of it being points of contact that wereÂ conscientiously created. But was that what conscionable means?
The answer is yes…sort of. It doesn’t have anything to do with consciousness or awareness. Often people will conflate the word conscientious to mean that sort of awareness, but actually it’s about being principled, about a quality of rightness and proper manner.
So a conscionable point of contact would be a point of contact that was correct according to your principles, according to your ideals and values. As my roommate was using it, she was talking about forms of communicating: husbanding your words, making sure that the most clear and concise forms of the ideas you wanted to convey came out of your mouth. It held to her values of honoring the time of others by not wasting time getting to the point or dancing around the subject.
Another person’s conscionable point of contact might be much different, full of polite phrases and inquiries about the weather and the family before coming to the point of the conversation. In Japan, in England, coming directly to the point can be considered quite rude, in fact.
Practice Your Purpose
The point is to identify what is your own set of values and act accordingly. Myself, I value the messageÂ above the form it takes, so my own mode of communication will vary depending on my evaluation of the audience. A New Hampshire man? I’ll come right to the point, won’t mince words at all. An eighteenth-century lit major? I might slowly sneak up sideways to the point by eloquently expressing elegant euphonious epigrams (I know, that doesn’t really count as alliteration, because of the “eu”; I tried). In either case, even though the mode of communication is different, the purpose is still conscionable.
What happens, though, when we take it beyond communication? We come in contact with many things during the day, in our life. Sometimes it’s things coming at us, and we deal with it, and sometimes it’s us reaching out to take action. What if every moment of that contact – with whoever or whatever – was done not only with a sense of self-awareness (which, of course, we all try and cultivate) but also with a sense of right purpose?
Part of why I thought about this practice today was inspired by Niall Doherty’s Why I Break Promises (and You Should Too)Â . Before you get up in arms about the title, take a moment to read it; it’s not about a lack of commitment, but rather a conscious choice of the realities of changes in circumstances and relationships. To use a possibly inaccurate metaphor, a sailing ship’s rudder is part of what helps it not get blown all over the ocean at the whim of the wind; but a rudder that cannot move is useless to steer a ship. What Niall suggests is that holding to a promise when it is at cross purposes to your own right choices is not a virtue.
So, on a Friday rather than a Monday (which ended up being posted Tuesday and being about Love) that’s the practice I challenge you with: conscionable points of contact, with loved ones, with strangers, with the world around you and the circumstances you find yourself in.
Let me know how it goes, ok?