You know the people who are always worrying about whether or not someone is trying to take advantage of them?
Maybe you know someone like this. They question the motives, quality and price of everything. When they need to buy something, they spend hours trying to figure out the exact right time to buy and the right place to buy from. They study warranties with a microscope, fearful that some hidden clause will cause them pain and suffering.
But in many cases, it goes beyond spending money.
At a fundamental level, people like this don't trust other people. So they not only spend hours researching every single purchase, they also spend a lot of time second-guessing people and worrying about who might be trying to do them wrong.
Given the chance, they'll regale you with examples of how their diligent efforts at rooting out potential threats has kept the wolves at bay.
I confess, I fall into the other category of people, the kind that the untrusting people call naive. I believe that people mean what they say, and my natural instinct is to always assume good intentions.
I don't have to work at it. I think I was probably born with it.
Now here's the part where I'm supposed to tell you one of two things:
I can take the optimistic approach and tell you why trusting other people has served me well. I enjoy the world. I have good relationships with almost everyone, and I waste very little time trying to find the hidden clause in warranties.
Or I can speak to you like a realist. A realist is what pessimists prefer to call themselves because they have concrete evidence that people really do lie, cheat and steal.
The truth is, the realists are right.
My trusting instincts have gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. I've lost money on business deals, and I've caused pain for myself and my family because I trusted the wrong person.
I admit it, I have a blind spot; I have a hard time spotting bad intent.
But viewing the world through a lens of mistrust creates problems, as well. When you walk around expecting people to treat you badly, they usually do. As my grandmother used to say, "People find what they're looking for."
Even if you don't believe in karma, mistrusting people isn't pragmatic. People who don't trust people waste tons of time and energy second-guessing everything.
So how do you solve the trust quagmire? Do you trust, or do you not trust? As always, the solution is found in the nuance.
The truth is, people are both bad and good. Trusting people is a nicer, more joyful way to live your life, but if you trust the wrong person, it can result in disaster.
So here's the rule I've made for myself: I'm going to continue with my trusting ways. But when the stakes are high -- big emotions or big money, and I mean really big -- I seek out a realist to help me see the potential downside.
The high-stakes rule keeps me from making big mistakes, and my trusting nature helps me enjoy my life.
I'm sure I've overpaid for small items and loaned stuff to people that they'll never return, but the pleasure I take in enjoying people without second-guessing them far outweighs any cost.
And I trust that the realists in my life will help me see the dark side when I have to.