Psychological Self-Help

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gullible." Rotter's research says "no, not so." It's true the high truster does take the
view, "I'll trust them until they do me wrong." But, they seem just as able to detect
the cues of a dishonest deal or statement as a distrustful person. Indeed, Rotter
(1980) says it is the distrustful person who is more likely to be "taken" by the con
artist. How come? Well, since the dishonest person believes the world is crooked--
"that's how everyone makes a fast buck"--when a "drug dealer" comes along and
offers $1000 in 10 days if he/she will invest $500 today to fly a spare part to the
stranded plane in Mexico, the dishonest person hands over his/her $500. The
moralistic, trusting person would more likely say, "I don't want to get involved in
something dishonest or illegal…and may be a scam" 
Another disadvantage of distrusting is that it disrupts honest dealings and puts
up barriers to open, intimate relationships. Rapoport (1974) has studied trust and
cooperation for 20 years. He found people tended to be distrustful, especially in a
competitive rather than cooperative situation. A betrayal of trust is hard for most
people to forgive. But, trusting people are more likely to "give someone a second
chance." Unfortunately, competing nations, like people, are not trusting and are too
self-centered to be rational. Rotter (1980) gives an excellent but scary example. It
seems that the U.S. during the Cold War had prepared a disarmament plan, but
before it was presented, the Russians came forth with a very similar plan. We should
have been pleased, right? No. Since we didn't trust the Russians, the plan was
thought to have had some secret advantage to them, so the US couldn't possibly
accept the plan. We had to think of another plan, one they wouldn't like. That kind of
thinking could have killed us all. Maybe the message is: don't trust governments to
do all your thinking for you. 
Rotter also developed the Internalizer-Externalizer Scale (see chapter 8).
Externalizers (people who believe that external forces determine what happens in
their lives) tend to be more distrusting. On the other hand, Internalizers, believing
they are in control and can change things, are more likely to be aggressive when
they are frustrated or provoked (Singer, 1984). So it appears that Internalizers and
Externalizers handle anger differently. Internalizers initially are more trusting but
when frustrated or hurt by someone they act out aggressively. Externalizers are
distrustful and passively accept the unkind actions of others which re-confirm their
already skeptical views of others. 
How can you become more trusting? Have trusting parents. Beyond that, Rotter
suggests that you frequently put your distrust to a test. When someone says
something you tend to doubt (without any hard evidence), act as if you believe it
and see what happens. Rotter thinks you will learn to be more trusting and the
person you are trusting will learn to be more trustworthy (like a self-fulfilling
prophecy) as well. 
It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to sometimes be cheated than not to
trust.
-Apples of Gold
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