Shots of Wit

A regular posting of witticisms, aphorisms, and general musings by Clifford Cohen.

Fool me once?

What will you do to protect yourself against the person whose stock in trade is to fool you only once?

Back Story

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” We’ve all heard this old saying, and the sentiment it expresses can be a useful caution to any person who might be faced with making the same mistake twice. However, what about the situation in which a person is not likely to have a second chance to prevent injury? In my experience, some of the worst lessons in life come from persons who have no intention of giving you a second chance to protect yourself. These are the people, the con artists, who know better than to attempt a second try. Their strategies are optimized and structured to catch you unawares…and to do maximum harm. What do you do to counter that threat?

Learn from the unfortunate experiences of others.

Because con artists try to ply their trade in secret, and because their victims frequently don’t report what has happened to them, it might seem difficult to anticipate what a criminal might do to you. However, there is ample information that is published that can familiarize you with some of the tried and true techniques people use to fool others only once. Understanding these techniques and taking proactive action to prevent their use on you is perhaps the surest way to prevent the “devastating blow”.

Trust your instincts.

Very often your subconscious knows more than your conscious mind knows. If you have a “bad feeling” about something, don’t dismiss your thoughts or rationalize away your misgivings about a situation or a person when faced with a novel set of circumstances. Instead, give your instincts a full hearing and consider the possibility that subtle warning signs may have been missed by your conscious mind. If you determine that there is just too much smoke—even though you can’t see the fire—consider getting out now while there is still time.

Live a moral life.

While this is by no means a guarantee against manipulation, if you over-value money, do not respect others, or crave power, you are “red meat” to a con artist. They will use just those qualities of yours to blind you, so that they can drain you dry before you even know what happened. Of course, if you do not respond as readily to such lures, your chances of being targeted are greatly diminished.

Be “situationally aware”.

This habit is a key survival mechanism of life. Being situationally aware is having the ability to think about yourself and your surroundings objectively, in the “third person” as it were—something that is exceedingly difficult for most people to do. Usually, we approach any circumstance from a subjective perspective: we do not ask ourselves whether we should be somewhere, should be doing what we are doing, or should be feeling the way we are feeling. Instead, we simply react to immediate stimuli based on the perception of the particular threat and/or opportunity presented by such stimuli at any given moment. This is because thinking in this way takes less mental energy than the alternative. The bottom line: If you can’t see context, and attend to that context either proactively, or in a timely fashion once you are in that context, you stand the chance of becoming a victim of others who do see the larger picture. They will set the trap, and you will fall into it. There are a host of resources to help you develop situational awareness…so be situationally aware right now and learn how to be situationally aware.

One final note: if you find yourself victimized despite all your best efforts, forgive yourself, pick up the pieces, and try again. You are, after all, human…and you will be fooled at least some of the time, no matter what you do.

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