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How to be less gullible

Because it's good to be trusting, but you don't want to be easily fooled either

by Martha Roberts

how to be less trusting

If you’re gullible, you are, according to the dictionary definition, ‘easily fooled or cheated’ and ‘quick to believe something that is not true’.

Experts have long seen a relationship between ‘gullibility’ and ‘credulity’ or ‘trust’, where being gullible means someone is easy to deceive, while being credulous or trusting means they may be a little to quick to believe something ‘but usually aren’t stupid enough to act on it’ (according to my Pocket Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus).

So how do you make sure you're not as easily taken in as Little Red Riding Hood?

  • Listen to your body. ‘Knots in your stomach, heart racing – your body is telling you something isn’t right, even if your mind isn’t giving you the warning,’ says psychologist Anjula Mutanda.
  • Take your time on big decisions – sleep on it or ask a trusted friend for their opinion. Remember, if someone is rushing you, that may be reason in itself to be more sceptical.
  • Be aware of gullibility ‘hot-spots’. Break-ups, illness, bereavement – these can make us vulnerable and maybe more prone to being overly trusting. Enlist a sceptical friend for support, if needed.
  • Steer clear of high gullibility situations. If you’re a sucker for smooth-talking salesmen, then buy online. If telemarketers reel you in, get caller ID and don’t answer ‘unknown’ calls.
  • Learn to disengage. ‘Thank you, but I’m not interested’ is a very useful phrase. The more you use it, the easier it’ll get.
  • In any given situation, think, ‘Do I have enough information about this?’ This is about reserving judgement until you have more proof.
  • Think about cost and reward. Approach a situation thinking, ‘Is this going to cost me more than it’s going to reward me?’ Balance it out and if it doesn’t add up, don’t do it.

Photograph: iStock

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