I’m well aware that I’m a relatively naive type of person. My friends may not agree with this, but that is (ironically enough) because they know me. Once I know a person I am usually quite good at reading his or her intentions. Similarly, if I’m familiar with a situation I am not very easily tricked.
Instead, my naivety shows when I meet new people, or when I encounter new situations. My problem is literally that I always think the best of people before I get to know them. Perhaps because I’m very honest myself, I generally assume people around me to be honest as well. Unfortunately, we all know that is not the case. As a result, I have a phase of a few days up to a couple of weeks when I’m very vulnerable to being cheated or tricked, after which my rational mind takes over and analyzes the person or situation more correctly.
I have been told several times not to trust anyone; usually by my father, but sometimes from much less expected people. In the less expected cases, the advise followed after the person had been cheated or used by a person they really trusted. A very sad experience, but probably the only way to learn not to trust people… unless you are a dishonest person yourself.
Until now, my naivety has never led to any serious or bad experiences. Usually, all it leads to is me feeling incredibly stupid for not understanding a sarcastic joke, or perhaps not understanding that this person was perhaps not really telling me the truth the first time we met.
A more recent and clear example happened to me this week. Since a few days I have a bicycle which I have been given by a friend at work, so now I can finally put an end to the horrible rush hour commuting, with overcrowded buses that won’t even stop. However, it took only until the second day before my bicycle was stolen from the university’s bicycle parking garage, which has both security people and surveillance cameras. I had locked the bike, but not to some other object, so it could relatively easily have been carried away. The security guys had not seen anything, and when I asked them if I could see the video recordings, they told me to go to the security office the following morning.
I did so, and to my joy I found that my bike was safely stored in the security office! Full of gratitude I thanked the guys for what I though was a very nice gesture, namely taking care of a bike they considered not safely locked.
It was only later, when telling the story to a lab mate that I realized what had really happened. The security guys had obviously made an attempt to steal the bike themselves, but upon me asking to see the security video, returned it as if they were the good guys. If I hadn’t made the effort, they would just have waited a couple more days to ensure that no one is claiming the bike, and then cut the lock. But I only realized this after my lab mate expressed her disbelief in the security guys.
Again, my naivety probably didn’t change much this time, but only made me feel incredibly stupid for having showed such gratitude towards the douche bag who was obviously part of stealing my bike in the first place.
The question is whether it is actually possible to trust people without automatically being naive, think the best of people without necessarily being a victim for being cheated. To me it sounds like a paradox. So the question is what is more preferable: always assume people are nice and honest until they prove you wrong, with the occasional risk of getting cheated; or distrust people until they prove they are worthy of your trust, with the risk of missing many (if not most) chances of getting to know new people.
To my naive mind, the first option is clearly the best.