Be Careful What You Say

Triple Filter Test


I think making use of Socrates Triple Filter Test, could prevent a lot of drama, frustration, hurt feelings and mistrust. Before you share a juicy tidbit, critique your partner or lash out in anger; apply the Triple Filter Test.

Too often we open our mouth before we think and later when we stop and think we wish that we could pull back what we said. Somehow, saying “I didn’t mean it” does little to undo the damage done.

Most of us have a fairly good filter on what we say when we are in public. However the more comfortable we get with someone, the more we remove our social filter. This may help explain why we often treat those we love worse than we would treat a stranger.

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.”

“Triple filter?”

“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?”
— Socrates

Triple Filter Test:

Is it true?

Is it good?

Is it useful?


I would also like to add, when you are deciding if what you are about to say is true, to stop for a second and remember that just because you think it is true, does not make it true. I have frequently, in my life, jumped to conclusions that I later discovered were far from accurate. The filter is “have you made absolutely sure that [it is] true?”

Using this filter would mean a lot of things would remain unsaid. But considering how hard it is to unsay something, I would suggest that this might be a good thing.