Can You Be Too Trusting?

June 26, 2019
It's possible to be too trusting, but that doesn't mean that it's wrong to trust other people. The real culprit is the person who makes you believe things that aren't true, the person who intentionally lies and manipulates you. Trust is a precious and fragile thing that some people dare to tarnish.

Has anyone ever accused you of being too trusting? Many people are under the impression that trusting other people is a bad thing. However, are others allowed to call you “naive” for placing your trust in people? The answer is not always. Offering and expecting trust isn’t a mistake. People who lie and lead people on are the ones who truly deserve the blame.

Laozi said that those who don’t trust enough won’t be worthy of other people’s trust. To some extent, everyone has to trust other people if they want to get along in this world. Without trust, you’d live in a world of permanent angst and anxiety. Without trust, no one would ever get behind the wheel of a car, or take public transportation, or drop their kids off at school.

A significant part of our culture and civilization is based on the principle of trust. Although you take it for granted most days, it’s the basis of much of what you do. Getting along with other people, reducing fear and uncertainty in your relationships, etc. Trust, at the end of the day, is a daily leap of faith that you do with closed eyes and an open heart.

That’s why it can be so painful when you have a bad experience and someone blames you for being too trusting. Not only do you have to deal with your disappointment, but you start to doubt yourself and your actions. “Was I too naive?” “Did they pull the wool over my eyes?” “Should I have been more cynical?”

“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.”

-Anton Chekhov-

Can you be too trusting?

The Power of Emotions

You might say that the word “trust” is one of the most beautiful words that exist. This term defines people’s capacity to create connections based on safety and other people’s affection. Likewise, trust also involves action. You dare to relate to other people without fear or worries.

That being said, there’s some interesting research out there about trust in our society. According to psychologist Joe Bavonese from the Relationship Institute in Royal Oak, Michigan, people have become less trusting in the last ten years.

One factor that explains this phenomenon is the technological advances of recent years. New technology gives you access to a huge amount of information and also makes it possible to meet many more people. However, none of these dimensions are 100% trustworthy.

It also seems like living in such uncertain times can affect your relationships. Things are economically, socially, and politically unstable, so it makes sense that you’d be a bit more wary, a bit more cautious. Even so, plenty of people might seem overly trusting. But what does that mean exactly? What are the limits? Where do you draw the line?

Emotional Trust and Cognitive Trust

When you build trust, you do it through two very concrete dimensions:

  • The first is emotional trust that feeds on emotions. It’s that intuitive feeling when you decide someone is worthy of your trust because your heart tells you so and because you feel good with them.
  • Cognitive trust. This is when you add judgment, thoughts, and beliefs to the emotional dimension that’s already present. This is a more practical and objective evaluation process that considers the reasons why you should trust someone or not.

As this study from Jennifer Dunn at the University of California explains, people who are too trusting often lean too heavily on the emotional dimension. Your judgments don’t always reflect reality. Maybe you limit yourself to listening to your emotions and you aren’t able to consider other more objective factors.

A leaf with a hole the shape of a heart.

You Can Almost Never Be Too Trusting

Thus, trusting other people is almost never a mistake. Don’t forget that your brain is a social organ, designed to connect and build relationships that are crucial for survival. Trust is a basic part of being human. That’s why disappointment, betrayal, and lies can be so traumatic.

That being said, there are some situations in which you can be too trusting. Let’s see what they are.

When You Don’t Take Past Experiences into Account

Trusting someone after they’ve disappointed you several times is a mistake.

Experience is the best advisor. Consequently, no one should be too hard on themselves if they make a mistake. Living life implies tripping and falling and putting your trust in the wrong people. That being said, when these things happen, you should always reflect and learn what you can from the situation. Tripping over the same rock over and over again isn’t good for anyone.

When You Forget that it’s Okay to be Picky about Your Relationships

Being too trusting sometimes means exposing yourself to potential harm. That’s why it’s okay to be picky when choosing your friends and significant others.

To do that, it’s helpful to remember the three principles of trust:

  • Trust is knowing that you deserve to get support and help when you need it or ask for it.
  • Trust is being able to share your thoughts without being judged or betrayed.
  • Lastly, trust is knowing that the other person won’t do you any harm.
Three friends hugging.

In conclusion, we all need to be able to trust other people. Without that day-to-day support, life would be too difficult. Thus, try your best to be the kind of person that others can trust and make sure that those you choose to trust are worthy.

  • Dunn, J. R., & Schweitzer, M. E. (2005). Feeling and believing: The influence of emotion on trust. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology88(5), 736–748. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.88.5.736
  • Rempel, J. K., Holmes, J. G., & Zanna, M. P. (1985). Trust in Close Relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology49(1), 95–112. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.49.1.95