The Three Sieves of Socrates
One day, the old & wise teacher Socrates was walking down the streets of the Athenian marketplace where he always used to teach as a peripatetic stoic Philosopher — when all of a sudden an agitated man run up to him yelling: “Socrates, Socrates! I have to tell you something about your friend! You will not believe what I just heard!”
Now Socrates the sage, otherwise known as the Gadfly of the city — “Hold it right there,” Socrates interrupted him by telling him this: “The story you’re about to tell me… did you let it go through the three sieves?”
“Three sieves?” asked the astonished man. “What three sieves, Socrates?”
“Three sieves, my good man. Three sieves. Let’s try it,” said Socrates.
“The first sieve is the one of truth. Did you examine whether what you were about to tell me was true?” asked the philosopher.
“Well, no, not really.
I just overheard the story and was in a hurry to tell you…” said the man.
“Ah! Well, then you must have used the second sieve, the sieve of good?” asked Socrates.
The man asked what that was?
Socrates answered simply thus: “Is it something good that you are about to tell me?”
“Hm, no… on the contrary, my dear Socrates,” answered the man.
“Hmmm” the wise man said.
“Let us use the third sieve then, the sieve of necessity. Is it absolutely necessary for you to tell me what you are so exited about?”
“Now that I think of it… No, it’s not necessary at all,” said the man.
“Well,” Socrates said with a smile:
“If the story you are about to tell me isn’t true, good, or necessary, just forget it and don’t bother me with it anymore.”
And that was the end of that conversation, and as the old sage went on his way after bidding the man farewell, he kept his good cheer and departed smiling to himself…
He had many conversations like that over the years, and they always left his conversants and himself in a good mood after they left from his presence.
Can we say the same with our conversations with the needy people that surround us?
This approach surely makes life better and perhaps far easier for all of us who perceive ourselves as Communication masters, right?
So my good friends out there — please observe these three simple dictums when you communicate with me.
That is provided that you want to keep on communicating with me…