This is a post I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s all about trust and links to the one I did about low trust costs you money. In my day-to-day dealings I really want to follow the
advice from people like Henry L. Stimson “the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him”. Unfortunately ideology runs into the harsh realities of life and you end up making a few judgment calls about when and how much to trust some people. A bit like the quandary my son faced when he was asked for money by a stranger at the railway station.
The Scorpion and the Fox is a fable that is used to illustrate that the behavior of some animals is so irrepressible that they will act in a certain way, no matter what the
consequences, death included. There’s plenty of material on the web where it is used to illustrate why some people cannot be trusted.
It’s origins seem to go back as the 3rd century and involve a menagerie of scorpions, frogs, toads, turtles, snakes and people. I like the scorpion and the fox version, partly because I have difficulties with speaking frogs (it’s a Kermit thing), but mainly for the You Tube video I want to link to at the end.
The story goes along the following lines:
- A fox and a scorpion both need to cross a river.
- The scorpion asks the fox for a ride on its back as it cannot swim.
- The fox refuses saying “no you’ll sting me”.
- The scorpion replies that it wouldn’t, as it would damage the both of them.
- The fox agrees and allows the scorpion to ride on it’s back.
- Half way across the river the scorpion stings the fox.
- As the poison takes effect on the fox and it starts to sink it asks the scorpion, “Why?”
- “Why did you sting me, now we are both going to die?”
- The scorpion replies, “I couldn’t help myself, it’s in my nature”.
Without compromising my desire to try to trust people, I think there is something in
this about managing trust situations to reflect the nature of the ‘animal’ and the environment.
So, what’s the PONT?
- If you go for the ‘trust everyone to do the right thing’ approach accept that you will feel some pain from time to time.
- To minimise the pain, it’s worth managing your exposure to reflect the risk from the person and the environment.
- On some occasions this might be a very low-level of exposure you can tolerate. In some situations (scorpions & swollen rivers) this might unfortunately mean saying no.