The Tripple Socratic Filters To Overcome Gossiping Habit

Have you ever had the urge to gossip about your neighbour, colleague or a celebrity that you don’t even know in person? Though we often feel pleasure doing so, gossiping can lead to establishing a bad habit. Moreover, it defiles the mind with negativity that comes from jealousy, envy, waste of time and energy which prevents the mind from being creative. Fortunately, there is good news. This habit can be overcome if only one decides to take a look at it seriously.

The word “gossip” from the old English godsibb, originally meant ‘godmother’ or ‘sponsor in baptism’, and illustrates a phenomenon called ‘semantic degradation’, where a word of high prestige loses some or all of its value[1]. In the 16th century, the word assumed the meaning of a person, one who delights in the idle talk about personal matters.

Socrates, one of the most reputed philosophers in the ancient Greece, gives us a great inspiration on how to overcome gossiping habit through his triple filter test in his conversation with an acquaintance.


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: 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, just forget about it!”


Most of the time, gossiping subjects are neither true/real, nor good or useful to anybody. When it becomes a habit, the result would be more likely breaking or developing less trust within existing  relationships.   It’s a high time then to look into this habit through the Socratic triple filter for the sake of our mind’s positivity and creativity, especially when it comes to developing our positive and constructive talks or speech.

[1] Encarta Reference Library 2009

Photo credits:  Ben White on Unsplash

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