I know, I know, none of us likes to see ourselves in those terms. After all, gullibility suggests not only that someone or perhaps some group of people out there is a lot smarter or wilier than we are but also that they are quite likely to take advantage of us, publicize it and make us look quite foolish. Well, I suppose that could happen, but take heart.
I happen to know that tests have been done — yes, actual scientific tests — that show gullibility is not our fault. For example, did you know that people give a lot more heft — that’s psychological heft — to the words of those who speak while seeming to consult information from a heavy clipboard in one hand? It’s a fact. From now on, if we want to gain the approval of our plumber, painter, lawn service or pool technician, we must remember to grab a clipboard, the heaviest one we have in the house, on our way to tell him what we need in the way of a home repair. We can’t help but get his undivided attention.
Here’s another little hint. People who have just swallowed some bitter or sour substance are more likely to respond to us with a similar attitude. Oh dear, shut down the lemonade stand that Junior and his friends are running at the end of the driveway. We just never know how it could adversely influence the next person to come to our door. Mind you, if he or she is seeking to borrow something, from money to a chainsaw, it might be a good idea to cancel that last suggestion and drink the lemonade yourself.
We are certainly creatures who respond to impressions very easily. Before you argue with me, think of our reactions to those around us. If a dirty, smelly, ragged person approaches us in the street, how quickly have we made a decision about him before he even opens his mouth? He is doomed before he even asks for a favor. We can be sure our feelings are conveyed to him by the look on our faces. How much differently would we treat a clean, well-dressed person who pulls up in a luxury sports car, whether he owns it or not?
I used to find it quite amusing to shop in one of the high-end department stores following a particularly grueling tennis match or while still dressed in my totally disgusting ‘car wash’ outfit. It gave me pleasure to watch the expressions on the faces of the snobby help as I questioned them about ridiculously priced items that I had no intention of buying, only to purchase some small item in the cosmetic department. These days, we may be lucky and get tagged as ‘eccentric’ rather than ‘bag lady.’
There are all kinds of markers out there, from the most stringent that could be interpreted as racial profiling to the silliest that could be merely how we are seen through others’ ignorant and uneducated eyes. Unfortunately, we all practice it; it’s human nature to prejudge others on their appearance and be prejudged in turn. That’s how gullible we are — we allow social judgements to interfere with common sense.
But I do have a positive note for us in all of this. Did you know that the scent of fish will attune people psychologically to “something fishy” going on? Those same tests prove it! Now, how terrific is that! Just think, here we are on an island, totally surrounded by water that is, we hope, occupied by fish. At least it smells that way on occasion. Do you realize how much more in tune with the universe we can be by taking advantage of this information? As soon as we smell something fishy, we can take action! No more falling under the bus, succumbing to the whims of crooks and others who try to sway us with their slippery words! We are far too sensitive to become gullible — we KNOW when there is something fishy afoot — or is that a-fin? Location, location, location. It can be so protective if we open our minds!