Your inner hormonal bulls#!% detector makes you less trustful

My Hormonology

Your inner hormonal bulls#!% detector makes you less trustful


I remember the time I negotiated the price of my first new car when I moved to Florida. My husband was busy working when I decided to take a trip to the dealership by myself and attempt to haggle on my own.

Having not had a car for most of my adult life because I was living in Manhattan where owning one was impractical, this was a new–and scary–experience that I’d only seen done in movies. As a result, my adrenaline was pumping as I sat down with the salesman.

Just like in the movies, the car salesman put a lot of time into jotting down what seemed like a bunch of arbitrary numbers before finally writing down a price on a slip of paper and sliding the figure toward me on the table between us.

And, just like I’d seen in the movies, I said, “No, I can’t do that–the price needs to be lower” and pushed the number back at him. He’d then huff and puff and walk over to some unseen individual behind smoked glass and return to the table only to jot down more arbitrary numbers and slide over a new price.

This back-and-forth went on for what felt like an eternity until the salesman finally sighed, threw up his hands and said, “That’s it. That’s as low as I can go! We’re not even making a profit on it at this point. I literally cannot go any lower!”

But, something inside me felt like he wasn’t telling the truth. It wasn’t only that he was a car salesman, which–no offense to car salespeople–is often equated with being untrustworthy. There was just no amount of pleading, cajoling or forehead slapping he could do that would make me believe what he was saying.

And research suggests this may have been due to a hormonal effect we experience in situations like these. Here’s what’s going on:

There are certain instances that spur a sudden spike in testosterone in both women and men–and one of these times is right before you compete, for instance, in an athletic match-up, chess competition or car negotiation.

And, once this testosterone spike occurs, you become less trusting of people you don’t know–and this is especially true if you naturally tend to trust people, according to this study.

The authors of this research speculate that this is Mother Nature’s way of helping us stay safe in situations with unfamiliar people who can be a threat or who seek to deceive us. Testosterone rises to help raise our confidence, but to also make us wary.

The takeaway:

When negotiating or competing with a stranger, if you get a feeling like you can’t trust that person, it may be based on what’s happening in the situation. However, you may also be getting a push to be wary from your hormones. So, keep this tidbit in mind if the person has the potential to be a good networking source, friend or even romantic partner–and, if so, reassess how you feel about his or her trustworthiness when you’re in a non-competitive situation and, therefore, your testosterone will be lower.

In the end, I got the car I wanted for a price deemed a real steal. So, I’m glad my hormones were there to help.

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