Oh, you have a juicy piece of information. You can’t wait to see the expression on people’s faces when you share what you know. Because when you’re sharing this juicy information, you’re the center of attention, and it makes you seem more important. Who cares if it is at the expense of someone else?
It can be very tempting to spread gossip. It can be entertaining and can help you and another person feel like you’re more connected. “I’m sharing this with you, so we must be very close.” It makes you and another person feel like you’re on the inside of something, and closer, at the expense of someone else.
But what we fail to see is that gossip rarely helps anyone. Sure it may give you something to talk about, but is it really making you a better person? Does it feel good to feel more important at the expense of someone else? Do you care at all about the person who is the topic of the gossip?
The Ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, had a test to help us all identify gossip and our desire to spread it. It’s the Triple Filter test and a great way of testing for gossip…
Testing for Gossip
In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “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. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“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?”
Gossip is something that we’ve all been guilty of and sometimes even share without realizing what we’re doing. It can be tempting to share, give you something to talk about, and make you feel important. This can seem great. But what needs to be considered is the person for which the gossip is about. Gossip can be incredibly hurtful, so we have to do our best to squash it the moment we see it. The Triple Filter test can help with that. Run the gossip through the test. If it doesn’t pass the test, it shouldn’t be shared.
Like Socrates said, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?” If what you’re tempted to say doesn’t pass this test, bite your tongue and don’t share it. Help squash the gossip, not spread it.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt…
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”