Thursday, May 08, 2008

Trust vs. Skepticism

I had a weird conversation with my sister today. She's always been a very trusting person -- like my mom -- and, after a series of recent events, she's become aware that people take advantage of it -- which is starting to get to her.

Not me. I was born a skeptic -- and law school just made it worse. I told her that I go into every situation fully aware that everyone has an agenda -- sometimes it's hidden, sometimes it's not -- but it's still an agenda. And I spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to figure out just what that agenda is.

I don't know which is worse -- trusting people too much, or not trusting anyone.


Justin S. said...

I'm a very skeptical person already. I wonder what law school will do to me.

To me, skepticism is nearly always a good way to approach a situation. The problem is when it leads to cynicism... Cynicism is usually not very productive.

DSL said...

It makes good sense to be a little skeptical of people. You should be aware when people are trying to take advantage of you. I mean you do have to protect yourself. On the other hand, who wants to be around people who prejudge them all the time? Sometimes people really do have good intentions, even if it doesn't always work out. I think it's good to have a little faith in people. Now I'm thinking of that line "I always depend on the kindness of strangers." And look where it got her. Skepticism is okay, but if you don't trust people from the onset, why should they trust you? Unless you don't care of course.

Justin S. said...

That's kind of what I was getting at when talking about cynicism... I don't go into situations generally not trusting people. Not giving people a chance to be trusted is just as bad as always trusting everyone. Skepticism to me means going in with an open mind... someone who prejudges all the time isn't truly skeptical in my eyes.

dara said...

Justin & DSL: I'm not saying I don't trust people ever, I'm saying that my general philosophy is that trust needs to be earned. That's skepticism -- a healthy sense of doubt and wanting to probe beneath the surface of things.

I am aware that there's a fine line: I wrote about something similar a few weeks ago, when I took the negotiating workshop with the game where two teams are at war. Clearly, to function in this world in a non-nihilistic way, you need to be able to trust others.

The distinction I was trying to draw is where you start from. Some people -- my sister, for example -- start by assuming trust -- and she is often disappointed. But my experience -- law school being just one -- leads me to start from a position of doubt. And I am often pleasantly surprised.

Paige Jennifer said...

My last beau, an untrusting skeptic, did some lying. And I never once caught on until I found incriminating evidence. I felt like SUCH a fool. But in the end, I'd never want to be him. He's paralyzed. I'd rather take my chances and get hurt than not take any chances at all.

honeykbee said...

Not sure that it's a conscious decision but as things stand, personally, I prefer to leave myself open to the occasional happy surprise than the occasional devastating disappointment.

Kilroy_60 said...

Finding a happy medium is tough, but that, I think, serves best.

I'm Stumbling today and stopped by to give you a big THUMBS UP.