Noun

Singular gullibility Plural uncountable

gullibility (uncountable)

  1. The quality of readily believing information, truthful or otherwise, usually to an absurd extent. (Source: Wiktionary)

Did you fall for Bernie Madoff, like so many others?

Do you wait for boys to call, because they said they would?

Or are you maybe someone who takes advantage of others, because you can?

Pic credit: quinn.anya

I for one am very gullible, and I know it. Thankfully, most of the times I've been duped were harmless, and I was able to laugh at myself (eventually... after a certain period of "duh"-mortification).

Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., wrote about gullibility on the Psychology Today blogs. I've summarized a concise bullet-point version for you below. For the complete articles and background explanations, please visit the PT blog here.

Dr. Seltzer holds doctorates in English and Psychology, and is a clinical psychologist and author of Paradoxical Strategies in Psychotherapy. He argues that people with negative beliefs about themselves may be at greater risk of becoming duped.

Have you said any of these to yourself lately?

  • I'm incompetent (or defective, inadequate, incapable, inept, slow, or stupid).
  • I'm not good enough (or, I can't be good enough).
  • I will fail (or, I can't succeed).
  • I'm foolish (or silly).
  • I'm not listened to (or taken seriously).
  • I'm a fraud.
  • I'm not really a grown-up.
  • I can't trust myself (or my judgment, perceptions, authority)
  • I'm not likeable.
  • I can't stand up for myself (or, I can't set limits on others).
  • My needs and desires don't matter.
  • My feelings don't count.
  • My feelings are stupid.
  • I'm weak (or, helpless, powerless, vulnerable).
  • I can't think for myself.
  • I can't take care of myself.

Dr. Seltzer admits that there is no concrete evidence (yet) on how these beliefs may influence gullibility, but I agree with his assumption that there is a common-sense correlation. Limiting beliefs are not unusual, and can be addressed by re-learning more helpful alternatives with your coach and/or counselor. As with everything, awareness is the first step to improvement.

He continues with a list of tips on how to become more aware in recognizing and avoiding moments of "dupidity", calling the following his "gullibility busters:"

  • Avoid acting on impulse (or, Take time to trust).
  • Beware the hasty generalization or rushed conclusion.
  • Cultivate doubt.
  • Don't take things at face value.
  • Assert yourself!
  • Respect your ambivalence.
  • Place your confidence in what's true--not what you'd like to think is true.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • Remember that anecdotes, however compelling, don't really prove anything.
  • Beware of so-called "authorities."
  • Don't let solicitors engage you.
  • Don't decide on anything when you're "under the influence."
  • Don't decide on anything when you're fatigued.
  • Keep your emotions under control.
  • Admit to yourself the limits of your knowledge or intellect.
  • Get another opinion.
  • Avoid temptation.
  • Become more self-sufficient and "self-liking."
  • Become more sensitive to non-verbal cues that you may be dealing with a fraud or "hustler."
  • Become more adept at reading others generally.
  • Get advice from people you trust.

Dr. Seltzer hopes this list will "enable you to cultivate a healthy skepticism--which in turn should "arm" you against those who view you only as an object for personal gain." He further recommends reading Greenspan's Annals of Gullibility and another one of his posts, "The Path to Unconditional Self-Acceptance."

Let me close with this great quote:

"Better to trust and be disappointed once in a while, than to distrust and be miserable all the time" - Coach John Wooden

At the end of the day, being mean and taking advantage of people speaks more negatively about the duper's character than the dupee's.

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