10 signs you’re a naive person (and what you can do about it)

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Do you believe everything people say — even if actions prove otherwise?

If you’re guilty of believing too much in something — or someone — then you’re what most people call “naive”.

If you’re not sure if you are indeed one, you’ll know once and for all by checking these 10 tell-tale signs of naivete.

And should you cross out many (or all) of the 10 signs, worry not as we have tips on what you could do about them!

1) You’re too trusting

The Cambridge Dictionary describes a naive person as someone “too willing to believe that someone is telling the truth, that people’s intentions, in general, are good.”

You’re a naive person if you continue to trust a person, even if he has failed you repeatedly.

It’s like bailing your friend repeatedly out of rehab – knowing that he’ll relapse once he leaves the center.

While your intentions may be good, you’ll most likely end up at the losing end of the bargain.

What you can do:

The sad fact is not everybody has good intentions. Your friend may be asking you to bail him out just because he wants to use drugs again.

That said, you need to be careful when dealing with people. If not, they may end up taking advantage of your naive nature (more about this below).

To prevent this from happening, you should take heed of these warnings:

  • Don’t be fooled by the person’s looks, charisma, or sex appeal. Looking good on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean he’s good on the inside.
  • Try to see if the person is out of character. Does he seem like he’s the opposite of his true self? More often than not, it’s just because he just wants something from you again.
  • Not all praises are honest, especially if they come from people you pay (teachers, coaches, etc.)
  • Don’t be fooled by tears or anger. Apart from feigning kindness, it might be a person’s way to convince you to trust him.
  • Avoid divulging your past mistakes. In worst-case scenarios, this might be used against you.

2) You’re too gullible

Are you guilty of believing social media conspiracies? Do you willingly respond to emails of a Nigerian prince — even giving your social security number?

This means you’re gullible as gullible can be. And yes, this is one of the more obvious signs of naivete.

Apart from being too trusting, naive people tend to believe everything people say.

It doesn’t matter if they’re baseless or too good to be true – a naive person will consider it to be a fact.

What you can do:

It’s as simple as thinking hard before you speak or act.

For one, you should make a decision based on facts. You don’t want to be falling for another Moses illusion — where you judge something based on what you “feel” is right or wrong.

You should also avoid giving into cognitive fluency. This is where people expect things to be 100% true, just because they’re smooth and easy. If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.

Most importantly, just because something is repeated — doesn’t mean that it’s true.

Remember: before you believe or give into something, make sure that it’s credible and backed up by plenty of evidence.

3) People take advantage of you

As mentioned, naive people are too trusting and gullible. Sadly, a lot of people will go ahead and exploit such weaknesses.

Just picture this: your friend borrowed your car for the nth time around. As always, he left the tank almost empty.

To make matters worse, there’s a new scratch on the driver-side door.

Instead of apologizing and making it up to you, he even asked you to get the car from his place. His home is located 30 minutes away from yours!

You have to go because he can’t return the car himself. He’s off in a basketball game with his friends.

And yes, you had to shoulder a Lyft ride because he’s not getting paid until the 15th.

If this is an all-too-familiar case for your part, then it’s an obvious sign of your naivete. You think that other people’s intentions are good — so they end up taking advantage of your ‘faith’.

What you can do:

If you think that life is simple and fair, people who take advantage of you should convince you otherwise.

As the saying goes, ‘shame on you if you fool me once, shame on me if you fool me twice.’

You can put an end to this vicious cycle by asserting yourself.

You should set boundaries once and for all.

Don’t feel bad saying no. You don’t even have to state your reason. All you just need to do is say “NO, I won’t let you (insert favor or request here).”

And if the person veers away from you because of this ungranted favor, don’t lose heart. If he truly values you as a person, then he’ll understand why you turned him down.

Remember, you still have a lot of friends out there – true ones that won’t take advantage of your naivete.

4) You have limited life experience

So you lived a relatively straight life. For more than a decade, your routine was just home and school (and vice-versa).

And while this is okay, you’ve missed out on a lot of things. Proms. Parties. Sleepovers.

In other words, you missed out on real-life experiences that would’ve molded (if not improved) you as a person.

So when you go out of the real world, you have what Merriam-Webster defines as a sign of naivete: a lack of worldly wisdom or informed judgment.

What you can do:

It’s time you explored the world outside your cozy little shelter!

For one, you should try to go beyond your usual circle. You’ll know what life really is when you spend time with people from other backgrounds or cultures.

To establish such diverse relationships, you can try these recommendations from the University of Kansas:

  • Join a diverse club, organization, team, or workforce
  • Read up about other people’s backgrounds and histories.
  • Listen to their stories. Don’t be afraid to ask, but do so respectively!

As Eleonor Roosevelt once said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a newer and richer experience.”

5) You’re young (wild and free)

People always say “with age comes wisdom”. At the same time, some people are “too young to know better”.

These, however, are not mere proverbs. Research has proven these as facts.

Take the case of a study that involved 50 adults. The participants, who were aged 18 to 72, were asked to predict the slope of a certain hill.

Results showed that the older participants gave more accurate estimates than the younger ones.

The researchers attribute this to experiential knowledge — something most young people lack.

So while youth is a gift of nature, this lack of experience is one of the reasons behind some young people tend to be naive.

What you can do:

Experience is the best teacher, so you should go out and learn new things!

Granted that you can’t speed up aging (and the wisdom that it brings), you may make up for this by experiential learning.

Also known as “learning by doing”, it mirrors Kolb’s cycle of learning. Here, you get to integrate:

  • The knowledge you’ve gained from class/work and other past experiences
  • The activities with which you may apply this knowledge
  • Reflection, or the ability to create new knowledge

So even if you’re young and naive, you can get real-life experience by participating in such activities:

  • Internships, where you learn in the field
  • Practicum, a type of internship in the work setting
  • Fieldwork, where you study certain events in the field
  • Study abroad programs, where you take a semester (or more) in a foreign college or university
  • Service-learning or out-of-classroom opportunities that promote civic responsibility
  • Cooperative education, where you study and work at the same time
  • Clinical education, where an established practitioner oversees your “experiential learning” in the health or legal setting
  • Student teaching, where you take the role of an educator even though you’re still a student yourself

6) You’re impressionable

Apart from being wild and free, young people are highly impressionable.

To boot, every person has had the experience of doing something “stupid” when he was young — all because his friends told him to.

With experts describing teenage brains as “soft play-doh” (or in adult terms, dynamic yet vulnerable), it comes as no surprise that young, impressionable people tend to be naive.

A Smithsonian Magazine article blames this on the sensitive rewards center in the young brains. Add to that, young people also suffer from undeveloped self-control. This combination proves to be a disaster of naivete and recklessness waiting to happen.

What you can do:

While your play-doh-like brain can make you naive, you can actually use this to become a ‘worldly-wise’ person.

You could use your impressionable brain cells to learn more about the world.

For starters, you should go and read as much as you can. If you want, you can even take a shortcut and ‘digest’ things faster through a technique called super reading.

If you spend a lot of time online, why not swap your usual YouTube videos with something informative? From educational topics to new skills, there are hundreds of things you can learn from this social media platform.

More importantly, don’t fret if your impressionable self has made a naive mistake. Don’t just charge it to experience — make sure to learn from it!

7) You’re very dependent on others

No man is an island. We need to depend on people from time to time.

But if you can’t seem to function without counting on others, then you may end becoming a naive person.

In fact, it’s a symptom of a condition known as a dependent personality disorder.

Likewise, naive and dependent people will try to avoid disagreeing with others because they’re afraid of losing the person’s support.

More importantly, these individuals will try and tolerate people taking advantage of them – all because they don’t want to lose them.

What you can do:

Try to be as independent as possible.

When you become self-sufficient, you’ll be able to challenge the mindsets that have made you naive in the first place.

Although this is easier said than done, you could start your journey by trying to be more aware of yourself. Once you understand who you are, the rest will be easier.

Next, you need to challenge your beliefs of dependency. Once you realize that you can stand up on your own — you won’t let people treat you like a doormat anymore.

To top it all off, you need to learn to make your own decisions – and stick to them. At the end of the day, you know what’s good for your emotional and mental health.

8) You hear things — but don’t listen to them

It’s hard paying attention to a long, detail-loaded conversation. Remember those school lessons when you doze off just a few minutes into the lecture?

Scientifically speaking, a study has shown that a person loses attention right around the 10/15-minute mark.

And even if you do manage to ‘hear’ a 60-minute talk, chances are you really did not listen to it.

Safe to say, if you don’t listen intently to something, you wouldn’t really understand it.

And in naive people, this can lead to a lack of knowledge/experience – which essentially leads to being so trusting and gullible.

What you can do:

Don’t feign listening. You can fully grasp the situation and avoid naive responses by being a mindful listener.

First off, you should try and avoid distractions.

Would you be able to fully understand if you’re thinking of something to eat? Likewise, you wouldn’t want your friend to think about food when you’re spilling the beans.

Next, try to hold off your snap judgments. You might have a preconceived notion of what happened, but don’t say anything just yet. Let them state their case before you make a decision.

More importantly, you should listen to understand – and not because you have to respond. Don’t think of a reply while the person is still talking. Instead, you should state your answer once he’s done stating his case.

9) You grew up sheltered

If you have overprotective parents, chances are you lived a very sheltered life.

You always had a chaperone no matter where you went.

They might have barred you from attending parties and such in fear that you’ll do something bad.

As a result, you missed out on the experiences (and the mistakes) that would’ve helped you grow as a person.

Unfortunately, this sheltered living can make you a naive person. That’s because you don’t ‘know’ what the world is like. So when someone tells you this or that, you fall for it easily.

What you can do:

If you have missed out on many experiences when you were young, then it’s time to try them out!

Apart from potentially reversing your naivete, they can make you happier as well.

According to Dr. Catherine Hartley of New York University, those who try new adventures tend to have better moods. Results show that the brain’s reward processing centers were more ‘synchronized’ in these individuals.

While it’s good to try new physical experiences (bungee-jumping, perhaps?), Dr. Hartley says that enjoying new sights and sounds can work just as well.

10) You refuse to get out of your comfort zone

There’s an old saying that goes if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is why a lot of people refuse to move out of the safety of their comfort zones.

While comfortable, this secure zone inhibits your growth. It’s stopping you from taking a risk.

You end up failing to experience new things — which is why you continue to be naive.

Add to that, you miss out on the rewards that come with taking risks. In other words — nothing ventured, nothing gained.

What you can do:

Of course, the solution here is to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s easier said than done though since charting unfamiliar territory can be stressful.

As such, you should take one little step at a time.

For starters, you can make small changes in your routine.

For example, instead of getting take-out from the same pizza place, you can mix things up and try Asian chow this one time.

By stepping out of your zone (albeit slowly but surely), you’re sure to become more ‘experienced’ and well-informed.

Plus, you’ll get to enjoy these amazing benefits as well:

  • You become more creative.
  • You grow and age better — just like wine (or cheese).
  • You rise to the challenge and perform optimally.

Final words

Naive people tend to be trusting and gullible — so much so that people take advantage of them.

Although some naive people tend to be young, impressionable, and sheltered, some just lack the necessary experience.

And while naive people are often at the losing end of things, they can easily change their fates. You just need to be assertive — and be ready to venture out of your comfort zone.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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