Let ƒ:H → (—∞,∞] be lower semicontinuous, where H is a real Hilbert space. An approach based upon nonsmooth analysis and optimization is used in order to characterize monotonicity of ƒ with respect to a cone, as well as Lipschitz behavior and constancy. The results, which involve hypotheses on the proximal subgradient ∂ π
ƒ, specialize on the real line to yield classical characterizations of these properties in terms of the Dini derivate. They also give new extensions of these results to the multidimensional case. A new proof of a known characterization of convexity in terms of proximal subgradient monotonicity is also given.