Finding the Balance Between Naivety and Mistrust

Navigating the dichotomy of naivety and distrust can be exhausting. Here are the keys to finding the middle ground.
Finding the Balance Between Naivety and Mistrust
Sara González Juárez

Written and verified by the psychologist Sara González Juárez.

Last update: 20 October, 2022

Naivety and distrust are two innate tendencies that tend to surface in you when it comes to relationships. When this axis becomes polarized, you become either too trusting or too suspicious. This can cause you problems in your interactions and your social life.

Some of these problems are easy to recognize. For instance, interpersonal conflicts, isolation, and even abuse in extreme cases. For example, you probably know someone who’s extremely trusting and who’s been taken advantage of. On the other hand, you probably also know another whose suspicion has made them lose friends.

Finding the balance between these tendencies seems to be the key to minimizing their disadvantages. However, how do you do it? In this article, we’ll give you some tips.

The implications of naivety and mistrust

When it comes to personality traits, naivety and mistrust are polar opposites that come into play when you judge the behavior of others. In turn, these judgments determine your response pattern. Each of these trends has its own characteristics:

  • Naive people naturally tend to see goodness in others. They don’t usually attribute bad intentions to them, even when others around them do. They tend to suffer situations in which others take advantage of them.
  • Suspicious people often attribute malicious intent to others. This leads them to refuse them favors and not be particularly friendly toward them. It often leads to loneliness and a pessimistic style of thinking.
Girl mistrusting her partner

Most students of the psychology of personality affirm that trust or suspicion are tendencies that are present from birth. The psychologist, Silvan Tomkins, differentiated between two innate archetypes of person :

  • Humanists. They tend to think that others are looking for the same thing as them. Therefore, they don’t believe that others are going to deceive or exploit them, but rather that they share the same objectives.
  • Normative. These people are at the other extreme. They see others as potential enemies. They don’t usually believe that others want to follow the same path as them, but that they’ll overtake them and wait at the finish line for their prize.

The tendency to mistrust or be naive, although innate, isn’t subject to factors such as gender, age, or cognitive ability. Nor is it subjugated to immobility, but it can change through experience. This means that no one is doomed to maintain either of these two extremes just because of their temperament.

Finding the balance

Avoiding polarization along the axis of naivety and mistrust requires modulating your behavior and learning to read social situations more broadly. Like you, the people you interact with will also be able to identify if someone is suspicious or naive and they’ll respond according to their own tendencies. For instance, taking advantage, moving away, defending themselves, etc.

Unfavorable situations often stem from difficulties in managing social interaction effectively, not just from the individual’s tendency toward naivety and trust.

Tips for finding the balance

Changing all this is a long-distance race, but it’s possible. Therefore, if you’re considering starting to change your predisposition to naivety or mistrust, here are some tips:

  • Ask others. As we mentioned earlier, the perception of others plays a fundamental role in the kinds of dynamics that generate uncomfortable situations. Ask the people you trust for their opinion. This will help you outline your self-concept and give you a clear idea of where you have to start modulating yourself.
  • Stop and analyze. It’s important that you spend time analyzing the situations that make you feel bad. Try to interpret them as objectively as possible so that your expectations don’t cloud your judgment. You need clear and objective information about the factors that have led you to this situation.
  • Take advantage of your experience. Analyze what’s happened to you and use it to prevent future mistakes. For example, if you tend to be naive, you’ll be able to identify certain behavior patterns in others that’ll help you recognize if they want to take advantage of you.
  • Keep an open mind. Being open to changing your own perceptions can be tricky, as they’re unconscious patterns most of the time. Try to stick to the facts you’ve experienced and analyze them honestly. It’s better to find a solution than to be right.
  • Avoid extremist thoughts. Nothing is ever black and white. There are no pure villains or saints. Therefore, it’s more useful to set boundaries when it comes to your relationships than to categorize people in absolute terms. In addition, this means you’ll be flexible in your behavior and judgments.
Woman talking to her partner

Balance is the key to most of the problems that polarize into a dichotomy. Mistakes and upsets can never be completely avoided but staying aware of your surroundings and remaining true to yourself is often the key to minimizing them. Pragmatism will be your greatest ally.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Moreno, J. B., María, P. G. A., Antonio, R. C. J., Pilar, S. S., & Beatriz, R. L. (2012). Psicología de la personalidad. Editorial UNED.
  • Higueras Esteban, C. (febrero, 2020). La teoría del afecto de Silvan Tomkins para el psicoanálisis y la psicoterapia. Reformulando lo esencial [Demos, V., 2019]. Aperturas Psicoanalíticas (63). Recuperado de

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.