Trusting Others Too Much?

A life of presuming that everyone is out to get you is not Woody Allen-funny, it is Stephen King-misery.

I had my annual skin examination yesterday. Given my ethnicity and some bad sunburns in the past, I always approach the visit with some trepidation. After a 20-minute scalp to soles exam, I left reassured that those scattered paint dots of extra pigmentation were innocent.

But am I wise to be reassured? What guarantee do I have that my dermatologist is well trained, thorough and up to date? And, if I, experienced in medicine must accept her reassurances as valid, how much more trusting must a lay person be?

I’m a complete layperson in another active sphere of my life currently, as we buy and sell a home. I speak to my realtor daily. Yesterday, I spent 3 hours in the company of a building inspector as he examined a house we propose buying. I read, research the web, talk to friends and colleagues, yet, ultimately, I have to trust that these varied individuals who advise me to know their field, are conscientious, and are committed to their long-term reputation.

It’s next to impossible to live peacefully unless we are willing to place our faith in others – an acceptance that almost everyone is going to do their best almost all of the time. Our mass media reminds us daily of the wrongs some people do, much of it heinous. It’s easy to see how adages like “trust no-one” emerges, but a life of presuming that everyone is out to get you is not Woody Allen-funny, it is Stephen King-misery.

You can only engender trust by presuming trustworthiness first. Diligence obligates you to fact-check and research of course, but knowing who to trust is more instinctual than learned.

Just as deep-down, we all recognize competence, I believe that at some fundamental level we know when someone is being genuine or alternately spinning us a yarn. We can all be vulnerable to the smooth operator, but when we’re seduced and subsequently find disappointment, we’ve allowed some other element to overcome our best instincts.

Doctors face the reciprocal situation of being the recipient of trust on many times a day basis. One would hope that that would help us do well at trusting others, though I’m not convinced that that is what occurs.

I’ll have some thoughts on why that might be, and on being trusted by others soon.