This short story from ancient Greece – in my humble opinion – demonstrates the exact way we should be dealing with everything that reaches our ears. Very often you will hear people say something about a person or a fact; sometimes their intentions are good, sometimes…well… not so good. How can you tell what to consider?
Socrates had a very good method for solving this problem; he called it the triple filter test.
Once an acquaintance met him and said:
“Guess what I have just heard about your friend!”
“Wait – replied the philosopher – let’s take a moment and filter what you are going to say. I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Are you positive that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“Well… no, I just heard about it and…”
“Ok” said Socrates. “You don’t know if it is true or not. Let’s try the second filter: Goodness. You want to tell me something good about my friend?”
“I ‘m afraid no, on the contrary…”
“So,” continued Socrates, “you want to tell me something bad about my friend, that you have no idea if it is true or not. Nevertheless you may still pass the test since there is one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you are about to tell me going to be useful to me in any way whatsoever?”
“No…not really” replied the man.
“So, to sum up things, you came here to tell me something about my friend that isn’t true or good or even useful to me. Why should I ever listen to you?”