You Can’t Protect Yourself Part-Time…

You Can’t Protect Yourself Part-Time…

You have a life. You have friends and family, hobbies, and interests. Hopefully, work that you enjoy and at which you’re very good. Perhaps you’re even an expert at your job or hobby. It’s pretty tough to pull the wool over your eyes when it comes to your areas of expertise. What you don’t have is the time to be an expert at everything.

“At the same time that you’re living your life, millions of people at thousands of companies are spending all of their work time trying to figure out ways to legally or illegally pick your pockets!”

Don’t get me wrong. There are thousands of companies and people committed to providing good value to their customers in an open and honest way. I’d like to think it’s the majority. Perhaps I’m just a hopeless optimist! While definitely not a cynic, I’ve also learned the value of the old adage: “Good judgment is the result of experience, which is usually the result of poor judgment”.  This poor judgment has led to a few unpleasant experiences and to one realization:

You can’t protect yourself part-time from people committed to taking advantage of you full-time!

Made with real chicken, doesn’t mean it’s just chicken! And what’s with gluten-free olive oil and trans-fat free candy? Have you tried to save a couple of bucks on a cellphone contract only to realize that despite all your gymnastics, you’re still paying exactly the same at the end of the month? Have you bought travel insurance only to find that most of the activities available at your resort void your coverage? How about warranties that cover everything except what’s most likely to go wrong? And don’t get me started on trying to use airline frequent flier points! When real estate purchased from a numbered company goes south and you sue, you discover that the only thing they have of value is a 1965 Underwood typewriter in an empty rented office! A roofer provides a reasonable quote until the shingles are off and he discovers that everything is “rotten” underneath. Then the price goes through the roof! Of course, you could tell him to take a hike and leave the roof exposed until you find someone else, but wait…are those raindrops you feel?

The ability to trust may well be a sign of a healthy personality. From Erikson’s (1963)[2] theory of psychosocial development to Bowlby’s (1969)[3] attachment theory, higher levels of trust early in life lay the psychological foundation for happier and better functioning relationships in adulthood. The better your childhood, the more likely you are to trust and to be happy! As Streep (2014)[4] writes, “The avoidantly attached individual—someone who has been neglected, rejected or even abused and thus avoids close contact—stays clear of relying on anyone for help because they don’t trust at all, and they do what they can to remain autonomous”.

Is this then the paradox of the trusting…happily going through life providing fodder for every swindle, legal and illegal, while the Depressive Realist[5] miserably avoids such pitfalls?

In an earlier article[6], I wrote about the personality dimension Need-for-Certainty, and how it can lead to Closed-Circuit Thinking in areas where we feel personally vulnerable.  A trusting nature and a high Need-for-Certainty can make us more vulnerable to unscrupulous people and messages, and more likely to deny evidence to the contrary. In a new study on the neuroscience of trust, Bergland (2015)[7] writes:

“The willingness to trust others is built into our DNA. Working together has always been key to the survival of our species. Having faith in one another is in the best interest of both the individual and the collective—especially in times of risk and uncertainty. “

 7 trust building takeaways

  1. Arrogance will do you in every time. Even if you’re an expert at something, there’s likely someone out there who is more knowledgeable than you are. Acknowledge this.
  2. Likewise, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Unless you’re a profound expert in something, you’ll likely wind up on the losing end of any deal.
  3. Surround yourself with professionals whose job it is to protect your interests. This isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny in both money and aggravation. Outside experts can be more objective and less vulnerable to the motivations that might blind you to what you don’t want to see. Get several opinions. Even profound experts can be wrong or have conflicting points-of-view.
  4. Keep an eye on the experts and the money. Ask lots of questions.
  5. Seek supplier references from people you know and trust.
  6. Read the fine print…in detail…of every document that matters. The modernist architect Mies van der Rohe said, “God is in the details”. So’s the Devil!
  7. On packages, the good stuff is always on the front…the bad stuff’s on the back. Read the back. Life’s like that too.


By Steve Courmanopoulos, Ph.D. (Psych)

Dr. Courmanopoulos is the Senior Partner and CEO of Medius International Inc, a global consulting firm providing expertise in three areas: Intelligence, Strategy, and Organizational Development.


[1] Negativity Bias. Retrieved March 3, 2017 from

[2] Erikson, E. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

[3] Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment. New York: Basic Books

[4] Streep, P. (2014). The trouble with trust. Psychology Today. Retrieved February 27, 2017 from

[5] Depressive Realism. Retrieved March 3, 2017 from

[6] Courmanopoulos, S. (2017). The impenetrable mystery of closed-circuit thinking. Leadership Insights. Retrieved February 27, 2017 from

[7] Bergland, C. (2015). The neuroscience of trust. Psychology Today. Retrieved February 27, 2017 from

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