Wed, Nov 25, 2009 PB Online
One day in ancient Greece, an acquaintance met the great philosopher Socrates and said, "Socrates,
do you know what I just heard about your friend?"
"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied. "Before telling me anything, I’d like you to pass a little test.
It’s called the Triple Filter Test."
"That’s right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and
filter what you’re going to say. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is
"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and ..."
"All right," said Socrates. "So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is
what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?"
"No, on the contrary ..."
"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass
the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be
useful to me?"
"No, not really."
"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?"
There would be no or little gossip if everyone followed Socrates’ Triple Filter Test. But that is not the case. Gossip runs
It’s no wonder legendary American humorist Erma Bombeck said: "Some say our national pastime is baseball. Not me. It’s
Someone has calculated that, if a rumor was started at midday, and was repeated within two seconds by everyone who heard it
to two other people, who repeated it and kept the cycle going, by about 6:30 p.m. the same day, everyone on Earth would have
Of course, the Internet has brought gossiping up to warp speed. A rumor posted online can make it around the world in
milliseconds. And although the post may seem anonymous and, therefore, "safe," the damage is potentially irreparable.
Snopes, the urban legends reference site, can’t debunk everything, after all.
Office gossip in particular is a major concern for a number of reasons. The Triple Filter Test could prevent plenty of
misunderstandings and hard feelings in the workplace, where teamwork and cooperation are often central to productivity.
How does someone work with another who insists on passing along information that may not be true, good or useful?
Spreading rumors about friends or aquaintances can create a hostile environment that customers will pick up on. This is a good reason for
avoiding gossip. Plus the fact that I’ve seen many deals go down, due to gossip.
As advice columnist Dear Abby said, "It is almost impossible to throw dirt on someone without getting a little on yourself."