(Note: This post was inspired by recent encounters with people — in the Blog-o-Sphere and elsewhere — who seem to be selling something.)
Is somebody trying to sell me something? The answer to this question — no matter when I’m asking it — is undoubtably “Yes.”
Somebody IS trying to sell me (and you) something, at any particular moment.
Why? Because people have to survive, economically. They have to make money. And in order to make money, they have to sell something.
So when people are interacting with each other, sometimes $$$ is a major factor. And that affects the communication, doesn’t it?
How could it not?
How important is it that we figure out HOW MUCH that is affecting the interaction?
It can feel very important to me.
If I am not aware of how money — the attempt to sell — is an aspect of an interaction, I might be taken advantage of. I might misinterpret what is happening in the communication. I might assume I’m being seen in some way other than this:
When I start with a different assumption — a belief that an interaction is based on a non-monetary wish to connect — and then realize that money is at the heart of the transaction, I can feel naive, like a fool.
I might feel the DTOS (Dreaded Thud of Shame).
Then, I might start asking questions like, “Who can I trust?”
The answer might become extreme:
That’s not just a visual quote from the “X-Files.” It’s also some serious All-Or-Nothing Thinking (yep, another cognitive distortion):
All-or-Nothing thinking (also known as “Black-and-White thinking”).
Things are either all good or all bad, people are either perfect or failures, something new will either fix everything or be worthless. There is no middle ground; we place people and situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray, or allowing for complexities. Watch out for absolute words like “always”, “never,” “totally,” etc. as indications of this kind of distortion.
It’s not helpful for me to think about trusting other people in all-or-nothing terms, or in any kind of extreme or rigid way.
It’s not helpful for me to be less trusting, just because selling IS everywhere. So what if most of the e-mails, snail mails, and messages surrounding me ARE trying to sell me something? That doesn’t have to seep into my general experience of connection in the world.
Sometimes, all the selling out there — and my fears about my ability to accurately see and negotiate that — can affect my experience of relationships. I can become hyper-aware of people’s self-interest, and even wonder how much room there is for anything else.
But focusing on self-interest in relationships is a distortion, too. Self-interest is there, of course. It has to be. But there is ALSO room for empathy, connection, and all the other human emotions and impulses that exist besides self-interest.
So if I start to think that I am
- too trusting
- in danger of being taken advantage of, or
- in need of putting my guard up (including with people I know)
it’s time to back off on those All or Nothing thoughts about trust.
It’s also time to back off from labels like “naive.” Hey! I’m actually not naive. I may make mistakes. Who doesn’t? I’d have to be a mind reader to know people’s intentions, all the time. Labeling myself as “naive” or “too trusting” ignores and downplays my experience — what I’ve learned in negotiating interpersonal issues in the past.
And, really, I’ve done all right so far. I’ve managed to retain — in the face of all those people selling things out there — what I need, to keep going (like the computer I’m typing this post on, for example).
And if somebody does “rip me off” in some way in the future, I’ll learn from that and survive it, probably quite nicely.
All those things are helpful to remember. Very helpful.
THE CLOSE* (one more time)
So the answer to the question
is not an all-or-nothing one. It’s neither “everybody” nor “no one.”
Trust, like most things, can vary. I can choose how much I trust and whom, and adjust that based on new and changing information. And, I probably have more personal power in any interaction — involving $$$ or not — than I may think.
Thanks for reading (and for trusting, in some degree or another).
* A sales term for wrapping up and ending.