Conversation not Denigration


I am absolutely sure that at some stage in your life you have been affected by gossip which is also known as backstabbing.  You may have even been guilty of backstabbing yourself.

Any form of backstabbing is like introducing toxins into your team’s drinking water.  Ultimately, everyone loses, so it is in your best interests to know how to filter out gossip from your interactions with others.  If there is one thing in life that you do not want to be known as it is being a backstabber.

Interestingly, it seems that backstabbing has been around for thousands of years.  A simple method of filtering out backstabbing has been attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates.  He proposed a triple filter test to weed out useless gossip from the conversations that he had in ancient Athens.

How does the Triple Filter Test work?

Step 1 – Truth.  When someone excitedly tells you that they have some juicy gossip on someone else, ask them this question:

Is this information true?

If the answer is yes, ask them how they know this, if the answer is no.  Tell the other person:

So you don’t know if this information is true?

Step 2 – Good news.  After establishing that the information is not reliable, ask the person:

Is this news good?

It is highly likely that having failed the first part of the triple filter test, the answer will be something like:

No, actually its bad, or definitely not good.

Step 3 – Usefulness.

Having established that the news is not actually true and not good, you should then ask the following question:

Is this information useful?

Again, having determined that the news is not actually true and definitely not good, the person will probably say

Not really, but it sure is interesting!


In the scenario above, we have established that your friend wants to tell you something about another colleague/team member that is not truenot good and not useful.  You don’t need to be Socrates to work out that news like that is simply not worth having.

Gossip or backstabbing wastes your time and the time of your team.  If it gets out of hand it can lead to conflict within your team and should be stamped out.   It is a morale killer and will reduce the efficiency of any team in a short period of time.

You need to step up anytime you hear or suspect that someone is about to unleash a load of untrue, nasty and useless gossip and challenge the gossiper/backstabber with the triple filter test.  Also, the next time you are thinking of sharing something about another person, run your owntriple filter test over your information.  You will be a better leader and team member and known as someone to be trusted. Believe me, trust goes a long way in life and is something that you want to accumulate.

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