Before understanding how thoughtfulness works with persuasion, I have to understand what thoughtfulness first entails. Whenever I have considered the idea of thoughtful, I have always linked it to being overly kind to someone. Interestingly enough, the OED‘s first listed definition of thoughtful is not “my” definition: “Given to, disposed to, or engaged in thinking; absorbed in thought; meditative, contemplative; pensive, musing; full of thoughts, preoccupied in mind” (OED 1a). In fact, I don’t see my version of thoughtful until definition four, the last of the listed definitions: “Showing thought or consideration for others; considerate, kindly” (OED 4).
What does this say about “thoughtful?” Have I been looking at it the wrong way? Has society been emphasizing only parts of this concept?
Maybe to truly understand what thoughtful is, I need to assess how it appears through my daily life. Of course, I try to be the “kind to others” thoughtful, but do I fit these other definitions?
Let’s look at the dictionary’s first definition of the noun “thoughtfulness:” “The quality or state of being thoughtful. 1a. Anxiety, concern; melancholy” (OED 1a).
This definition raises a new side to thoughtfulness that I had never considered before. Is overthinking, anxiety, and concern thoughtfulness? Why so? I’m the type of person who most likely worries over every and anything I can. Does this signify being thoughtful because you’re considering others when you are worrying? What about in a situation when you worry for your own well-being? Is this still categorized as thoughtful?
It is clear that defining “thoughtful” can be hazy. The more I think about it, the more I lean towards the “engaged in thinking” definition. Maybe this definition tends to encompass every other definition too. When one is being thoughtful in the “kind” sense, they most likely engage in thinking, like an idea of “I should go out of my way to be kind and considerate to this person.” When one is ridden with anxiety, it is very likely they are full of thoughts or, as a better description, “preoccupied with their mind.” Anxiety is almost always accompanied by mental factors that are typically irrational and unwelcome. Yet, someone who is anxious is still thoughtful because he or she is filled with these thoughts that affect his or her actions.
The point I am trying to make is that being thoughtful means more than we think. Maybe every action already involves some level of “thoughtfulness.” Maybe thoughtfulness is what signifies that we are really paying full attention and being considerate to others. Being thoughtful could mean a deep analysis of something that could lead to a better conclusion.
It seems like an abstract concept but maybe being thoughtful is just “Thinking.” You do not take things just for the way they are. Nothing is simple. Everything requires some effort, some thought. I’d say in addition to the “think before you speak” saying, we could say thoughtfulness is a “think before you think” concept. A thoughtful person is one who is fully involved in what they are thinking, feeling, and doing. This should help transition us to the role thoughtfulness plays in persuasion.