I’m sure that I’m not alone in having been deceived by someone I trusted. It sure is a lousy feeling when that happens.

If you’re like me, you’re not sure who to be angry at — yourself for being too trusting or the other person for violating your trust. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened to me that often.

I don’t know, perhaps I have learned to develop a “gut feel” for people. There are some people to whom I am immediately attracted because I can somehow feel their sincerity and their total lack of pomposity and phoniness. Other people seem to exude a feeling of unbelievability that makes me uncomfortable almost from the moment I meet them. I avoid those people as much as I can. If I can’t avoid them, I give them as much “room” as the situation allows. And I certainly don’t trust them with anything important, whether it be money, personal confidence or my car keys.

But my system is not infallible, and I sometimes get taken in when my “sensitivity antennae” malfunction. That’s when I am forced to remember the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” I don’t think that needs an explanation.

In spite of the risk of being taken in by phonies, it still happens to me more often than I’d like. That’s because I always want to provide everyone that I meet with a “tabula rasa,” or blank slate. This is the slate that their history will be recorded on and that I can read to reflect my dealings with them. So we start out with a blank slate and slowly, over time, the slate gets written on. Eventually, together we write your slate; you supplying the information and me recording it.

If it starts to fill up with negative records, I need to decide whether I want to continue recording anymore. Perhaps not. Perhaps I have enough history to decide that any further recording will be a waste of time, and worse yet, be only a forewarning of even worse things to come.

The record doesn’t have to be one that has a lot of overtly bad things the person has done to me. It could be something as simple as a listing of times when the person has simply let me down by not showing up for an appointment, failed to keep a promise, not told the whole truth about a situation or has been the type of person who is so self-centered that he only wants to talk about what is happening to him.

Now let me tell you everything that’s been happening to me lately …

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at pburri@west.net.