Rumors: The three colanders’ test

Before I tell you the story of the three colanders, I remind a lesson I gave to my employees about hearsay. As a matter of fact, to create my second company, I had to keep some of the employees from another company, and also keep the equipment and a substantial raw material stock.

You can easily imagine what kind of hearsay spread of before they must be things of the past. I was upset facing true and false information because it made the production and quality decreased. I decided to lock all the employees in the meeting room to face with the hidden Hydra.

I remember that everybody was sitting in chairs aligned like in a theater’s room. It was the first time I had to behave like this, they were very surprised when I locked the door and said: “No one is leaving this room until we solve this problem”.

The first and only question was: “what’s the matter?”. I took a red marker and wrote on the whiteboard: RUMORS. Instantly everyone was self-assured with a hint of a smile, meaning “It is not my fault, it is the other’s. I am so pure and immaculate white as an innocent child”.

I hardly kept from laughing, watching theses looking like innocents! It reminded me an old situation during an executive meeting, that this adult’s attitude is absolutely childish.

Instead of giving lessons or find who was guilty, I asked questions about hearsay. How it is created, how it is spread and then how it definitely leads to chaos.

I asked each of them to share a personal situation where hearsay had an implication in their lives. One of them started to speak, and one other, and one other, and at the end, everyone agreed that hearsay was bullshit so far from the truth.

After this exercise, we determined what were the questions we should ask, before talking about something. It was really constructive, even if some of them showed a real lack of respect for the inside rules. During the week after, I used to ask basic questions to everyone who wanted to give me information. As I needed to set a good example, I necessary asked these questions to myself first.

So, through this story given by Platon, here is the 3 colanders test of Socrates :

Back to the time of ancient Greece, Socrates was highly a man of wisdom. One day someone came to him and said:

-Do you know what I learned about your friend?

-A moment please, said Socrates. Before you tell me your story I want you to pass the 3 colanders test.

-The 3 colanders?

-Yes, said Socrates. Before talking about someone, it is good to take time to filter out what you really want to say. This is what I call the 3 colanders test.

The first colander is the truth :

– Have you checked that your story is true?

– No, I only heard about it…

-Well, you don’t know if this is the truth.

Then we pass the second one, the colander of the goodness :

-The story you want to tell me about my friend, is it a good one?

– Absolutely not! Quite the opposite!

– So you want to tell me bad things, probably false about a friend of mine…

Well, you can pass the test with the third one, the colander of usefulness :

-Is this story about my friend be put to use?

-No, not really…

-So you want to speak about something nor valid nor relevant and not useful. Why would you want to tell this?

If once, you need to set the record straight, apply this story that no one call into question. It is simple and efficient to use it for yourself at first. It is the TGU formula, True, Good and Useful.

And answering the last question of Socrates: “Why would you tell this?”, the answer is clearly deduced: only the ego wants to shine! This is just another way to be sure if we are helpful in our relationships.

Laurent Dureau

Published originally on the Boost your influence blog on March 27, 2008, and updated on the 345D blog on October 14, 2012.

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