What is the concept of prudence?

Did you know that prudence is considered one of the 24 psychological strengths? But what is the concept of prudence and how can you exercise it? Most intelligent people are careful, yes, but they become too cautious that they become paralyzed by fear of making mistakes. I once read that prudence was the “brave’s intelligence” because…

What is the concept of prudence?

Did you know that prudence is considered one of the 24 psychological strengths?
 But what is the concept of prudence and how can you exercise it?

Most intelligent people are careful, yes, but they become too cautious that they become paralyzed by fear of making mistakes. I once read that prudence was the “brave’s intelligence” because it entails making wise decisions as you are taking risks.

This article will help you look into this strength and how to develop it best.

There is a fine line between prudence and boldness. 

Prudence is a brave person that takes their fears into account, while a bold person ignores their worries in their calculations and treads on without dread or terror.

This simple distinction between the two is why brave people hardly lose and why bold people tend to end up ‘losing’ due to their lack of perception and readiness. That skill to project forward, envision possible outcomes, and make practical judgments is a quality of character strength, Prudence.

What is Prudence?

Prudence is sometimes called “cautious wisdom,” “practical wisdom,” and “practical reason,” which means carefully weighing out choices; it is an act of stopping and thinking first before acting— it involves much self-restraint.

When one is prudent, you do not take unnecessary risks, and one tries not to say or do things that one might regret later on. Being high in prudence, you are capable of considering the long-term implication of your actions.

Prudence is the ability to objectively examine your actions’ potential consequences (a form of practical reasoning) and control yourself based on that consideration. Prudence involves visionary planning as well as short-term, goal-directed arrangement. 

What is the concept of prudence silhouette of road signage during golden hour

What is the concept of Prudence in Positive Psychology?

In Positive Psychology, Prudence is strength under Temperance’s virtue category— one of six virtues that subcategorize the 24 character strengths and enumerates the strengths that help manage habits and protect against excess. The other forces under Temperance are forgiveness, humility, and self-regulation.

Research findings on the benefits of prudence found that it is linked with productivity and the ability to be conscientious. This strength helps in avoiding life mishaps, both physical and psychological.

Researches about Prudence: An Underrated Strength

Years ago, Tracy Steen and colleagues researched using focus groups conducted on high school students to understand how they perceive the VIA character strengths.

They found that generally, adolescents understood them well, but they tend to confuse “Humility” with “humiliation” and “Prudence” with “prudes or killjoys.” According to the researchers,

“It seems that for most students, caution/prudence is a stuffy trait associated with timidity and lack of adventurousness.”

Maybe grownups are confused and cannot differentiate, and they seem a bit disappointed to find prudence as one of their top psychological strengths. 

 Vincent Jeffries, a psychologist, describes prudence as “the use of reason to discern that which helps correct and that which hinders realizing the good.” When you take a good look, it is all about deciding on today’s actions as an alignment for one’s future, considering different possibilities, and making decisions about considering alternatives.

A person high in character strength and prudence may have a high tolerance for uncertainty because most of the time, there is a need to deal with incomplete and often disagreeing information to form judgments.

Nick Haslam, the contributor to the Prudence chapter in Character Strengths and Virtues, identifies the following qualities of prudence:

  1. An envisioning attitude toward the future, and thus aligning actions for  long-term goals and ambitions
  2. Ability to resist self-defeating urges and to continue doing valuable activities, even if they lack direct appeal (like grit)
  3. Deep, careful, and practical thinking when making life choices
  4. Ability to complement multiple goals into a “steady, coherent, and uncomplicated form of life.”
  5. Ability to pursue personal good without being collectively damaging

Prudence involves creating, assessing, and harmonizing multiple goals. It may involve making hard choices.

Positive Prudence

Prudence has a very constructive side. The keyword here is forethoughtto envision something before it happens. It isn’t just speculation; it’s logical reasoning.

It suggests that you think before and evaluates the situation to deduce where and what specific action might lead you.

The capacity to be prudent and have precaution is essential for decision-making as these virtues put you on the path to success and help you decide correctly more often.

Prudence also offers itself strategic problem-solving and makes mistakes more manageable when committed.

Prudence is the reverse of impulsiveness. Prudence is essential when a choice or action carries risks or dangers with it. It is a virtue closely related to intellect, reflection, and self-discipline. In difficult situations, this strength is beneficial and valuable especially if you are faced with decision-making.

Extreme prudence and emotional handling

Some people are careful but not necessarily prudent. 
Prudence also includes the capability to be brave when situations are advantageous. Otherwise, this is no longer a talk about prudence, but it is somewhat of fear.

When prudence is to the extreme, it’s not a virtue anymore. It becomes a problem of one’s emotional processing problem. Overly prudent people perceive reality as a danger.

Thus, as a result, they dodge and prevent any actions that may result in unpleasant or catastrophic conditions.

They discard anything that means change because the “prudent” choice for them means retaining the situation or world they are comfortable with and already know.

This kind of emotional processing doesn’t lead to victory or making the right decisions. It most likely leads to paralysis because eliminating all risks is practically impossible. 

Why? Because Not even in your own house or room, you are sure that you are 100% safe from hazards.

Ceilings can fall in, planes may crash, thieves may enter homes… If you always focus on probable dangers, you will never live in peace.

What is the concept of prudence woman standing in a brown field while looking sideways

Is it Prudence or timidity?

Extreme prudence sometimes comes in odd forms. One of these is extreme perfectionism. Perfectionists want everything to be “according to plan/ schedule.” 

They try to preserve everything and keep them all under control, making a stance of avoiding mistakes at all costs. This obsession speaks more of fear than of caution— and what happens is that one forms a paranoid expectation that if they are to let out any loose strings, the worst will happen to them.

Some people use prudence as a justification for their inaction. These people are more timid and cowardly than careful.

People should remember that there will always come new situations that they have not prepared for, but they offer different possibilities and potential personal growth situations.

If outrightly you say “no” to something that you are not ready for just because you aren’t entirely sure of what could happen, then you are saying “no” to the offers of life itself.

What is the concept of prudence woman playing with wooden blocks

Story about Prudence

Prudence is not the same as caution. Instead, it is the virtue that binds us, in each situation, to keep in mind our more profound call and final goal.

Consider the following story:

A man walking through the forest saw a fox that had lost its legs and wondered how it lived. Then he saw a tiger come up with the game in its mouth. The tiger ate its fill and left the rest of the meat for the fox. The next day God fed the fox using the same tiger.

The man began to wonder at God’s greatness and said to himself, “I too shall just rest in a corner with full trust in the Lord, and He will provide me with all I need.”

He did this for many days, but nothing happened, and he was almost at death’s door when he heard a voice say, “O you who are in the path of error, open your eyes to the truth! Stop imitating the disabled fox and follow the example of the tiger” (The Spirituality of Imperfection, p. 93).

This story illustrates the need for discernment and prudence. Growing in trust is a good thing in itself, but not if done so selfishly or recklessly.

Like any virtue, faith is not detached; it exists in real-life situations, and the integrity of prudence must direct its application. 


Imagine a world where individuals reflect on the long-term effects of their actions…

Think of it, maybe more people will consider the number of their carbon footprints as they make critical life decisions, such as where to settle for living and working or everyday choices such as shopping, exercising, or playing.

Imagine them pondering about the world that their grandchildren will be born into every time they turn on the faucet before they brush their teeth.

People having thoughtful consideration of future outcomes and others, then coupling that with action… what a world, right?

Characteristics of Prudent People

Brave person takes their fears into account, whereas bold person disregards them and ignores them in their calculations. This is why brave people rarely lose and why aggressive people tend to end up as victims of their lack of perception.

To some extent, everyone enjoys talking about themselves or about others, but sometimes we miscalculate and overstep the mark. And so, far from improving our ability to socialize, people end up distancing themselves from us.

When someone is imprudent, others stop trusting them because they aren’t respectful of the person they are criticizing in front of us, nor will they be respectful of us when they are with others.

Also, imprudent people often monopolize groups due to their great desire to be the center of attention.

Behind this is a deep need for approval, which they try to satisfy through inappropriate comments. Imprudent people who try to win others over but disregard their means’ secondary effects end up losing those people.

Prudent people are outwardly respectful toward others. 

They don’t tell secrets, criticize or make others feel uncomfortable and not know where to look. On the contrary, prudent people tend to have very close bonds of friendship because they can be fully trusted, and this is precisely the sensation that they project.

People who practice prudence are not afraid of silence. 

They don’t need to fill the conversation with a superfluous monologue so that everyone else pays attention to them. They know how to listen and respect people’s turns to speak, something which is very important if we want others to enjoy the time they share with us.

On the other hand, a prudent person is reflective: they know when to speak, what context, and at which moment. They also think about the consequences of their words.

Making mistakes is human, and the important thing is to learn from this and think before we speak next time. Although we didn’t say what we wanted to are deeply etched in our memory, the times that we get it wrong by doing the opposite are more common.

People who value prudence also tend to be empathetic.

They give themselves enough space to put themselves in the other person’s place, which means that they can reach more profound levels of intimacy. Prudent people also tend to have different values related to prudence, like respect and loyalty.

What is the concept of prudence brown sticky notes

How To Develop Prudence

As we’ve seen, being prudent has the great advantage of strengthening our social relationships. It also makes others consider us polite and respectful people who can be counted on.

Prudence is a skill that can be trained, but you have to be consistent and follow some steps, according to psychologist Patricia Ramirez. With repeated practice, we can turn ourselves into people that it’s enjoyable to be with.

Think about whether this is the appropriate time and place to say something

We often tell intimate secrets, both our own and those of others, in inappropriate contexts.

We must first think about whether the people in front of us want to hear what we want to tell them and whether it is relevant to the situation we are in and, if not, it is better to keep it to ourselves.

Think about whether you are betraying someone by saying something

If you’re going to share something intimate about someone or a secret that you’ve been confided with, think twice and try not to tell it. If you tell a secret, others will think you can’t keep secrets and won’t trust you again because you’ve created the image of being disloyal.

Think about whether what you’re going to say is too intimate to share

Do others want to know all your intimate details? I don’t think so. There are certain subjects that you can’t talk to everyone about, however close you may be. We should know whom we can and whom we can’t speak openly with.

Think about whether you have permission to tell what you’re going to say

If you don’t have permission to talk about something you’ve been told, it’s simple, don’t do it. You are not the owner of this intimate detail, so let the person who is the protagonist tell the story if they want to, not you.

Practice active listening

It’s not just about talking – listening is hugely important, and we all like to be listened to. Don’t speak for the sake of saying and significantly not to interrupt someone else. Listen and then formulate your next question; don’t be afraid of silence, as this is an excellent opportunity for you to pass the conversation to the other person.

Don’t give your opinion or advice if you aren’t asked

This is not very pleasant. It is better to ask if the other person wants advice before venturing to advise for the sake of it. What is useful to us isn’t necessarily applicable to the other person, and that person is most probably an expert at knowing what they need to do.

Don’t criticize if you aren’t going to offer anything constructive with it

If the criticism doesn’t help anyone, why say it? Everything we have to say about others should be to add, not subtract. It’s no use to tell someone you don’t like their dress when they aren’t in a position to change it or without offering a better alternative.

Don’t offer favors if you’re expecting something back

Favors are done for the pleasure of helping others and never to get something back for it. We shouldn’t expect anything in exchange nor boast about having done someone a favor.

Many short-term developments and consideration is going on today, with businesses that look only at next quarter’s earnings, with politicians that focus on short-term improvements. But perhaps if we spoke with an appreciation for the long-term thinking benefits of prudence, we’d see people taking actions that profit the entire world.

Being aware of, spotting and intentionally using character strengths supports well-being in individuals and helps to build and deepen relationships.

Caution, conscientiousness, being careful. Being thoughtful about the short- and long-term impact of your actions and words. Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.

Prudence is a strength that is closely linked to the other psychological strengths of Temperance, Modesty, Self-Control, and Forgiveness. These character strengths help you manage your habits and protect against excess – sometimes we call these strengths of Balance or Patience.

Examples Of Prudence In Everyday Life

Here are some suggested activities for you if you want to exercise prudence in your everyday life:

  • Create a plan for the day with a child, ask them to write down all the things they want to do, and put them in order.
  • Enjoy an activity that will take a long time, like a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Start something for the future, like planting a garden.
  • Encourage young people to clean their bedrooms!
  • With older kids, help them or ask them to set a goal for school for one month or three months from now. What do they hope to achieve, and how can they work towards it?
  • Set a fun goal – what’s something creative or enjoyable you could work towards?
  • Notice (and celebrate!) when you act with prudence or caution.
  • Practice restraint when something pushes your buttons.
what is the concept of prudence woman wearing white shirt standing inside library

Emotionally-healthy individuals take chances, but it doesn’t equate and mean that they are reckless—people can take chances simultaneously as they make likelihoods, calculations, and plans. They know there will never be assurances on absolutely all they do.

Prudent people also know that committing faults is always likely. However, there’s no need to dread them since they are an incredible pool of wisdom and experience. 

Prudence 1

Prudence should not be considered as a fear of failing but rather an act of taking responsibility for both success and failure.

About the Author

Louee Gonzales

An SEO specialist in the Philippines and licensed Psychometrician who also loves writing about psychology and web development.

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