Socrates, Tiger and The Triple Filter Test

Every once in a while, a valuable piece of information comes from an unlikely source. A recent newspaper column by Harvey Mackay was just such a source. In general, I find his columns to be a rehash of old business bromides, such as “The Customer is Always Right”, “ Innovation is Good”, etc. Yet, I read his column every week, because, well, you never know. It’s the same reason I occasionally watch Fox “News”.

Anyhoo, in this column Harvey reminds us of old Socrates and his “Triple Filter Test” for gossip. Harvey quotes Socrates in his column (he’s old, sure, but it’s hard to believe Harvey was actually in on the conversation) as asking three questions when presented with someone who had information about his friend:

  1. Have you made absolutely sure that what you about to tell me is true?
  2. Is what you’re about to tell me something good?
  3. Is what you’re about to tell me useful to me?

It made me consider things I have said about others. Running them through Socrates’ Triple Filters is a great tool to use before passing along so-called information. The filters of Truth, Goodness and Usefulness can eliminate a lot of  damaging stuff from being profligated. Not to mention save a ton of time and energy.

Much of what we discuss might fail a strict Truth test. It’s difficult to determine what is absolute Truth and what is our opinion, beliefs and biases coloring that truth. At least, it can be for me.

Usefulness is another tough one. A colleague of mine once gave me an excellent question to ask to determine motives: “What do you want me to do with this information?”

And Goodness…well, study after study shows that we share much more negative information than positive. Socrates gives us a good way to up those good comments.

Here’s an example from recent events. Before passing along the latest “news” about Tiger Woods, let’s run it through Socrates’ filters:

  1. Have I made absolutely sure this is true? Nope…there’s no way I can really know that it’s true.
  2. Is it something good for Tiger? Nope…hard to believe that any of this is good for Tiger, or anyone else.
  3. Is it useful to the listener? Nope…no one can really believe this is useful. Just puriently interesting.

So, my 2010 New Year’s Resolutions will include trying to share only those things that I know are true, good for the subject and useful to the listener. No more reports on Tiger from me…although, you might hear an opinion or two.

I’ll let you know how I do. Or better yet, you can let me know.

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