The Socrates filter

In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance came to meet the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”

Socrates immediately stopped him saying “Hold on a minute”. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the Socrates Triple Filter Test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“Well, no,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…”

“Oh! I see” 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?”

“Umm, no, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about my friend, 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?”


Lessons from this story:

  • Words can not be taken back. So be careful what you say to others, or what information you are willing to get from others.
  • Words are like seeds, they take place in your mind and if you give them “food and water” – think about what you have heard, they grow roots and good or bad thoughts grow from them. It depends what you feed them (remember the story about the two wolves).
  • Too many people “spray” words without thinking about the meaning of them. You can hurt or cause harm to others without you even knowing it.
  • It is also important to be mindful about how you say something, not just what you say. People can forget if you said something bad to them, but they will not forget how you made them feel when they were talking to you.

Are there any lessons I missed from this story? Please let me know in the comment section.

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I hope you found this post helpful. Let me know what you think. Talk to you in the comment section.


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