Oh....huh, yeah, uh, that sounds totally reasonable!
August 16, 2013 10:25 PM   Subscribe

How to deal with feeling duped about something that (in retrospect) should've been clearly a lie/exaggeration?

I'm not sure if I'm more gullible than the average person, but a recent incident with a stranger makes me wonder. Am I gullible? How I should better deal with feeling silly or tricked? In retrospect I realize this person probably lied several times to my face and I was inclined to believe him. After thinking over the weird ending to this random encounter, I was leaning on vowing, "Ugh, nobody on the street is worth talking to at ALL! I'll snarl at them if they come near me! They all want something from me ARRUGGHHH!!!!"

But then again, that's probably too cynical and I'm taking this too hard. I've never dealt with feeling stupid very well. In public, I usually just shrug it off or pretend I totally knew the other person was kidding me. Then I retreat and overthink the encounter in my corner, sometimes feeling increasingly angry that I should believe that shit in the first place.

Any ideas on how to shrug off unnecessary anger towards myself/the other person?
posted by myntu to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is totally unanswerable without knowing what they said.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:44 PM on August 16, 2013 [32 favorites]

I'm inclined to take people at face value, and sometimes people abuse that. What are you gonna do ? People gonna people, and I'd rather be a dude that helped someone in need than be someone too afraid of being seen as gullible to help somebody in need.

And, too, sometimes, you can be in on it. For example, there was this guy in my neighborhood, used to bug everyone to "borrow" a couple bucks to buy dinner. He had a job, and could afford it, but... I guess he just liked begging. So, one day, I gave him 5 bucks. My wife says "why'd you do that, you just gave 5 bucks you didn't have to" and I replied "I just paid 5 bucks for that guy to avoid me for the next few months." Which he did - every time he'd approach me, I made a point of asking where my money was, and he'd leave me alone.

Best 5 bucks I ever spent, actually.

Point is - what are you gonna do about people are harmless but annoying and stupid ? I don't let them get me down and thank my stars that I don't have to live like that. Imagine what your life must come to for you to bother with those tactics.

We are all just squirrels, trying to get a nut. Sometimes, it's just better to play along and other times, its better to avoid the freaks - but under no circumstances can you let them define you who are and what to be.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:44 PM on August 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I look on these kinds of feelings of regret as a learning opportunity. That anger at myself tells me I need to look at the situation and decide how I would like to handle similar situations in the future.

For small things, like being hustled by a street person for cash, I first was angry thinking, "they were just lying about needing cab fare to get home or a room for the night or some food or whatever." Then I realized, their life has to be screwed up in some fairly major way for them to be working this hustle, and I wanted to show some compassion. So, I decided many years ago that I will give money to any person who comes up and asks me for spare change. I don't give a lot but I hand them whatever change/small bill(s) I have. I usually give women more. I don't analyze their motives or mine. It has worked for me.

On a larger scale, I'm currently dealing with a much bigger situation. I was hustled and lied to by a coworker for whom I had a great deal of respect and who I saw as a mentor. I said yes to something that I never should have said yes to and it had a huge direct impact on about 200 people at work and made me look like a terrible person to hundreds of other coworkers and people outside our organization. People who had no idea who I was in our organization, know me now and have judged me and my mentor. I felt so much regret and so much anger at myself, that I was paralyzed. I sat weeping in my house for days and thought I would have to leave work. But, again, I decided my huge regret meant I obviously had a huge lesson to learn. I went back to work and apologized, I apologized and groveled and took full responsibility for my actions and then set about trying to fix things. My mentor took a different tact. She pointed fingers and blamed others. She lost her position and I am still there and slowly rebuilding my relationships with my coworkers--it is hard and it is painful, but I know I will never, ever let myself make that terrible choice again. I've learned a ton, and my coworkers have been remarkably generous and forgiving.
posted by agatha_magatha at 11:04 PM on August 16, 2013 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Don't feel stupid because it isn't about stupidity. I sometimes get tricked and it's because I don't suspect people enough. I trust everyone to act honestly and openly and sometimes, I get screwed over a little for it. I suspect you are probably the same way.

I just laugh it off and move on because the alternative would involve a whole different way of looking at people. I would have to always be on the lookout for people coming to get a piece of me. It is very cynical, as you mentioned, and I think it would be very tiring as well. Also, I know it's hard not to dwell but don't. The other person probably forgot it already and you can move on too.
posted by cyml at 11:34 PM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You feel stupid because you were openly vulnerable and out of that vulnerability you showed some compassion, even if it was inadvertant and/or you feel like they didn't deserve it. That actually takes strength and it's a quality you don't want to lose. The shame will chip away at that. You want to continue being vulnerable and compassionate, and experience will dictate when it's smart to do so openly. Focus on the wisdom to gain here and not the foolish feelings.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:56 PM on August 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Any ideas on how to shrug off unnecessary anger towards myself/the other person?

I deal with it by rocking slowly back and forth and playing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" on the guitar over and over. I've been doing that all night, since I happen to be going through the same feelings right now, except as a result of overreacting in the other direction. Erring on the side of trust is so, so much better than seeing everyone as an enemy out to screw you.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:03 AM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is the most vague question ever. Who talks to random strangers on the street? I sure don't. I actually think you had it right. If a stranger is talking to you on the street, they probably want drug money, or food, or a ride, or sex. Maybe only talk to strangers in appropriate settings and this won't be a problem?
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:51 AM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It's a book about the psychological mechanisms that make people say 'yes', how marketeers and con artists exploit them, and how to guard yourself against them. It will make you both enraged and terrified at what the human mind can be tricked into.

(It starts by describing how to trick turkeys. Turkeys only look after their young if the young make a certain cheeping noise. They attack polecats on sight, who are their natural predators. Take a stuffed polecat and put a recording of the cheeping noise in and... the turkeys start to look after it, sitting on it to keep it warm. Turn the recording off, and they suddenly realise what they're sitting on and go into attack mode.

"But humans aren't that stupid!" You think to yourself... then you keep reading and you find that no, we're not that stupid. We're worse.)
posted by Fen at 1:31 AM on August 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

Please give us some idea of what they said that you believed.
posted by Unified Theory at 3:26 AM on August 17, 2013

Question is vague, but it doesn't matter if it was a clever play or the oldest ruse in the book. Strangers have an advantage over good natured trusting people.

Learn from the experience and stop beating yourself up.

Proof that you have learned from the experience will be NOT POSTING THE AWFUL DETAILS.
posted by moonlily at 3:44 AM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

As someone who works in social services, I have just seen and heard too much to ever give money to someone who approaches me on the street. Perhaps, this is the cynicism that other posters have decried, but it works for me. Regardless of the story, my answer is ALWAYS, "I don't give out money on the street." If they say they are hungry, and we are near a place to get food (and I have the time), I will offer to buy them food. (95% of the time this offer is rejected because they are not really trying to get food.) I give money to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and other social service agencies that serve those in need, but I am not willing to give that money out to people on the street.
posted by hworth at 3:45 AM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Being a part of life means that while for the most part things keep on trucking, the chaos is unavoidable because it is just there and it happens to everyone, no matter how gullible or cynical they feel they are.

So, feel better knowing that you're human, that many other people have experienced just what you've experienced, and think about what you might do differently next time if you're in a similar situation.

Acknowledge it, learn from it, move on.
posted by heyjude at 4:23 AM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I tell myself that if I fell for someone's lies, that reflects badly on them.
If I disbelieve someone who is telling the truth, that reflects badly on me.

So I'd rather err on the side of the former.
posted by lollusc at 5:24 AM on August 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

People who are basically honest don't understand why people would be dishonest. Plus, lots of people don't have the time to constant suspect others.

Some things that help with this is simply to not respond when someone needs an immediate answer from you based on their "story," because that's the other aspect of manipulating someone-- not just being dishonest but also requiring a response before you have time to process things.

Without becoming a paranoid, suspicious person, just say, "I'm busy right now. Let me get back to you" and ponder the issue later.
posted by deanc at 6:15 AM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

If someone does something mean to me, I find it helps to set the balance right in the universe by doing something nice for someone else, an equal or opposite reaction: Hold a door for someone, let someone else go first in line, tell the cashier ending shift to get home safe. I can't prevent another person from being mean, but I can counter it in in a larger sense. That gives me the last word, in a way. I win.

I can't quite tell what happened to you, but I am assuming you were hassled for money. I've had a lot of luck by saying, gently and without judgment, "Not today, but good luck to you." Most of the time, I will get a kind "You have a good night, ma'am" in response and that's the end of it. They know I don't wish them ill.
posted by mochapickle at 7:21 AM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it makes you feel better, I work in e-comm, which requires developing a hacker-like mentality about what people are saying to you, especially via e-mail, and someone came THIS CLOSE this year to nailing me on a $3,000 order of USB drives via an e-mail scam that shouldn't have fooled a baby. I even did certain checks that I always do to see if they were "real people," but somehow the part of my brain that apparently doesn't work when you're asleep (or in the first hour of the day at the office) glossed right over the very dubious and inconsistent results. Only because the first credit card they gave me didn't work did I escape the trap.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:23 AM on August 17, 2013

Don't give a stranger anything you want back. I'm pretty much a sucker for a sob story, and, knowing this, I make a habit of refusing to interact with strangers along certain lines. If I have no reason to trust them, then they don't usually get the benefit of the doubt.

I don't mean that I don't converse casually with people I meet in waiting rooms and such, but I don't get involved with anything that involves me giving something to them, except under certain conditions. For example, I sometimes will give off-ramp persons a bag of food, but I don't give them money. This happens when it's convenient for me to pull into a Burger King or whatever and pick up a meal. I hand it to them with my sincere wish that they have a better day than they seem to be having. I don't interact with persons in rest areas who solicit gas money, except to nod and acknowledge their greeting. Usually they will sit near the restroom with a sign, but if they ask for money, I attempt to be polite when I refuse. I can't bring myself to walk by these folks while pretending they don't exist, so I do with them what I do with any other person I pass on the street: sometimes nod and say hello, and such. I do remember being homeless, and how I felt about all those assholes who tried to pretend I didn't exist. I admit that I never solicited spare change, but I spent some time on the road, carrying all I owned in a rucksack. My parameters regarding this are sort of arbitrary, but I rely more on the situation than I do on the apparent verisimilitude of the person.

Scammers seldom come in through the front door. They usually qualify you first, getting you to agree with them about some innocuous thing or another. Once they get you to nodding, they give up a hypothetical, and when they are good, you will find yourself offering relief before it's asked for. A key sign is when you have been stroked, informed what a good guy you are, and then, bang, he presents you with a reason to demonstrate it. Honest persons will resist being suspicious, mostly because they find it hard to relate to duplicity, and partly because they like the idea of showing how nice they are, and want to get that rosy glow that comes from helping someone. Sometimes it's just easier to go along with a scheme than it is to analyze it, and a good scammer can use your impatience against you. Also, scams that work best usually don't play on honesty, they play on greed, and a willingness to get something for nothing--even to steal it if the chances of getting caught are nil. When the deal is done, you get the poke, but not the pig. It turns out that is was too good to be true after all.

Lately email scams are the rage. When I get emails purporting to be from my bank or insurance company, warrantee holder, or some such, I never use the contact number they provide. So far the biggest problems I've had in this area relate to loaning money to relatives. I apply the "don't expect it back" rule when I get sucked into that. By the way, never co-sign anything, especially with a relative. Never. Ever. Except if you are prepared to assume the debt or take the credit hit.

Caution doesn't equal paranoia. Unless you are nuts, caution is just another tool you can use to describe your world. I'll take your story at face value, but I'll notice which way your feet are pointing. If I ask you for verification, and you are reluctant to give it, then a flag goes up, and provisional disbelief kicks in. Of course this means that I have to do the heavy lifting in any transaction.

I do wish that damned Nigerian Prince would hurry and get back to me about that deposit I made, regarding my cut of his inheritance. I plan to buy Maui with it.
posted by mule98J at 10:48 AM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Without knowing what they said, I'll recount my last episode of being sucked in.

We were looking for some better value business insurance and I mentioned it to my small-town local grocer. He started going on about what a good deal his business insurance was and said their agents were based in next town over. I asked their name and he said "Josh and Yur". So I went home and looked up 'Josh and Yur' in the phone book. Found nothing. Oh well. But I called another agency in the same town, had a chat, mentioned my local shop keeper's comment and his insurance package, and the agent said "oh yeah, we do his insurance. And he has X product, not Y package.

... Josh and Yur = joshing you = slang for not telling the truth.

So, a person I though was a friendly acquaintance business (we shop there 3 x week) basically used my need and friendliness to have a joke at my expense.

Do I feel gullible? Not at all. I find life to be easier when you take people at face value.

Do I think my local shop keeper is a dick? Yes. In other words, stop internalising the negative feelings. Project them into the dick who wanted to make fun at your expense.
posted by Kerasia at 7:37 PM on August 17, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far! It's interesting that there's been a variety of interpretations of the questions.

To answer those who say I've been too vague, here's a brief summary of the encounter that inspired this question. I was approached by an average-looking guy about my age and we started chatting. He seemed friendly, but had to go meet a friend so asked for my number to hang out some other time. I asked if I could use his phone to call mine so I could get his number, but he said he needed to pay his phone bill tonight. As we walked away from each other, I thought, hmmm, this guy is not the sort of person I'd be comfortable with -- I've had so-called "friends" who were overtly flirty with me and I had no romantic interest in him. So I wouldn't bother respond to any messages from him, letting him think I gave him a fake phone number. (In addition, I almost never pick up unknown phone numbers unless I'm expecting someone to respond to my job application or something.)

He hasn't contacted me back, but that makes me think that he may have had a bet with a friend about getting a random girl's phone number. There's details about his story on being a student that didn't quite add up.

Anyway, it annoyed me a lot that I just gave my phone number away like that. I normally don't engage with people on the street, but I don't want to discount everyone who approaches me (unless it's obvious they're after money). It means a lot of uncomfortable conversations with Christians who want me to go to their fellowship meetings...

HOWEVER, I don't think the above story is completely relevant to the question. There's many little incidents like this that nag at me. I felt much the same way when I traveling in a foreign country last year when another foreigner approached me and asked me for money so he could afford a train ticket. I just gave some change to him. A few days later, coming back to the train station to make a transfer, I saw the same man again. Clearly he lives in the area and routinely begs foreigners for money, knowing that they're unlikely to spot him again. This time I just ignored him, but seeing him again made me feel like an idiot for believing his story.

For those who have been less cynical in reading this question, thank you. I really would rather believe people don't lie as a way of getting through life (and hell, many people even PRIDE themselves on being generally honest when they are not)....
posted by myntu at 9:29 PM on August 17, 2013

Dude, you are reading things into situations that aren't there. You have no information about what the real story with phone number guy - maybe, like you, he reassessed the situation in the cold light of day and realised you two weren't a good match. Maybe he lost your number or took it down wrong. Maybe he lost his phone. Maybe he's someone who fantasises about going on dates but is too anxious to actually arrange them. Maybe five minutes later he ran into the girl of his dreams in a bar and they are now on their honeymoon. You just don't know.
Regarding train station guy, there are people like that all over the place. There are also people who really do need money for a train ticket. Sometimes it's not a terrible thing to trust someone when you don't know which of the two groups they fall into. Given a choice between a world where nobody ever had the opportunity to take advantage of people's kindness and trust, and one where that opportunity sometimes arose, I'd choose the latter.
Ultimately, I'm not sure it's that desirable to become the kind of person who can't be scammed. However, it sounds like you do need to develop confidence in enforcing boundaries and telling people that you don't want to talk to them/give them your number/etc. A good rule: if someone evidently doesn't think it's rude to ask, it can't be rude for you to say no. You're not an idiot, but you are allowed to have your own boundaries.
posted by Acheman at 10:12 AM on August 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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