A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

Are You a Gullible Person? 10 Ways to Be Less Gullible

There’s a fine line between a healthy level of trust and trusting too much, a key trait of gullible people. These easy tools can help you be less gullible.

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Develop a healthy dose of skepticism

Just because you’re a good person doesn’t mean everyone else is, too. “It’s important to have a realistic view of people. People have ulterior motives and can take advantage of you, even your own family,” says Annie Lin, a certified life coach at New York Life Coaching in New York City. Gullible people are often easily persuaded to believe others without proper proof. Pay attention to what people are saying or asking you to do; if it doesn’t feel right, trust your gut, no matter how much you want to believe their intentions are good. These are habits of trustworthy people.

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Sharpen your brain and build common sense

Gullible people tend to be uncomfortable with uncertainty and have misplaced trust in authority figures like parents, the government, teachers, or the media, says Lin. “The first thing you need to do is use your noodle. Sharpen your critical thinking skills and develop more common sense,” she says. It sounds harder than it is. Read a wide range of books, watch different types of TV shows and movies, and learn a new skill. “These are good ways to learn and understand the complexity of human psychology and make you a more well-rounded person,” says Lin. By exposing yourself to all types of people and situations from afar, you’ll be able to better recognize when you encounter them in real life, and will know how to handle them.

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iStock/Izabela Habur

Learn from your mistakes

“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,” is more than a catchy phrase. It’s actually an important tool to reign in your gullibility. “We all start as a blank piece of paper and go through life making mistakes and learning from them and becoming wiser. Don’t make those same mistakes over and over,” says Lin. And don’t think you need to make mistake after mistake to become the best you can be. “The beauty is, you don’t have to learn just from your own mistakes. Learn from books and movies and the people around you,” she says.

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Pay attention to body language

When someone is trying to manipulate or fool you, they often give it away in subtle body cues. “Watch for inconsistencies when you speak to others and look at their facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice,” says Lin. If they avoid eye contact, have shifty eyes, seem a little too pushy or get angry when you say “no,” take a step back because they may have poor intentions.

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iStock/Steve Debenport

Avoid gullibility “hot spots”

Anything that makes you more vulnerable, like a big fight, a breakup, an illness, or death can make you more prone to over-trusting. In these instances, surround yourself with supportive friends you know you can trust, advises Psychologies magazine.

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Keep track of how often you’re pranked

If your friends are always pranking you, it’s probably because you’re the gullible one of the group. While there’s nothing wrong with a harmless joke, your oblivion could get you into a more serious situation where you’re taken advantage of. If your friends make fun of you for being naïve or an easy target, let it roll off your back but keep it in the back of your mind; this will help you remain more aware when it counts.

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iStock/Martin Dimitrov

Look out for shady deals

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. “Gullible people might find themselves the victim of email scams or buying miracle products from infomercials,” says Lin. Question things, don’t just trust the source or take what it says at face value.

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Trust your instincts

“There’s no one size fits all when it comes to trust, so you have to learn to trust your instincts,” says Lin. Pay attention to how you feel around different people, even people you love. “If something feels funky or strange, don’t ignore those feelings,” she says. These are clear signs you can trust your partner.

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Hit the pause button

Don’t jump to conclusions or rush into a decision. Take time to reflect and really think about what’s in front of you. “Learn not to make decisions based on one person’s opinion,” says Lin. “Separate your immediate reaction from your final decision.”

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Know what to look for

Manipulators might think they’re good at what they do, but there are always clues you can pick up if you know what to look for. Look out for a large emphasis on money, smooth talkers who know just what to say, and people who push; these are all red flags, so don’t let your gullibility take over.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest