Who among us have not fallen for a stupid idea, pitch, or proposal? At some level, we’re all gullible where “gullibility” is defined as “an unusual tendency toward being duped or taken advantage of.” Fortunately, Stephen Greenspan has written a book called Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It. In the conclusion of his book, Greenspan explains how to become less gullible:
* Don’t rush big decisions. When we make big decisions in a rush or when we are exhausted, they tend to be bad ones. We have to decide few things quickly, so sleep on them and take the time to ask a friend what they think. Indeed, if someone is rushing you to make a decision, you should be even more skeptical.
* Avoid high gullibility situations. If you know you’re susceptible to a smooth-talking salesperson, go to large warehouse-type stores that don’t have salespeople. If telemarketers suck you into deals that you regret, don’t answer the phone when caller ID indicates that a stranger is calling.
* Admit your limitations. You might be the world’s greatest expert in programming, but that doesn’t mean that you know which car you should buy. Or you might be an insecure person who doesn’t like to admit a shortage of knowledge because you believe it shows weakness. The unwillingness to admit your limitations makes you an easier mark for someone who wants to hoodwink you.
* Learn how to disengage. You’ll be a lot less gullible if you learn disengagement tactics in advance, so that you’re not flustered when you encounter people who are trying to influence you. For example, when a telephone solicitor calls, interrupting the canned pitch with “Thank you, but I’m not interested,” and then hang up. Or, when the solicitor asks you a question, you can respond with a question of your own. For example, you can respond to the question, “Would you like save money on your utility bill?” with a question like “May I get your home phone number and call you back later?”
* Adopt a skeptical attitude. Generally speaking, a skeptical attitude such as “I would like more information and proof of what you’re saying” will prevent you from unintentionally sliding down a slippery slope. You don’t need to be close-minded and negative—you’re simply doubtful until you receive some kind of proof.
If you embrace these techniques, you’ll be a whole lot less gullible and have fewer regrets. But don’t take my word for it—try them for a while and see for yourself. Even better, read Greenspan’s book.