There’s not a day goes past without us hearing gossip of some form or another, whether it be on social media, TV or just in the office. I read this little story about gossip and thought I’d share it, it’s called the “Distillation test!”
The philosopher had just spent another hard day at the university asking lots of pertinent and challenging questions. On the way to his favourite restaurant for dinner, he was greeted by an acquaintance.
“Do you know what I just heard about your friend Jamie?”
“Just a moment,” said the philosopher. “Before listening to this I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“Huh?” said the acquaintance, who was eager to pass on the interesting piece of hot news.
“That’s right. Before you talk about my friend Jamie, it might be a good idea to just pause and consider what you are about to say. I call it the triple distillation test.
The first distillation test is through the filter of truth. Have you made absolutely certain what you are about to tell me is the truth?”
“Well….no, actually, you see I just heard about it, and thought, well, you know….
“All right,” said the philosopher. “So you have no idea whether the information is true or not. So let’s try the second distillation through the filter of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”
“No not at all, in fact—“
“So,” interrupted the philosopher, “you wish to tell me something bad about my friend Jamie, but you’re not at all sure it’s true?”
“However, you may still pass this test, because there’s one more distillation process remaining, the filter of usefulness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend in any way useful to me?”
“Um. No. In fact, not in the slightest.”
“Fine,” said the philosopher. “If what you want to tell me is not true, good or useful, why do you wish to tell me at all?”
There are several good points to this story, not least the following:
- Personal and professional integrity are essential if a leader wants others to follow him or her freely and with commitment.
- In contexts where gossip, rumour and innuendo are rife, this could be a good story to challenge the culture.
- The wise person pays attention to the wider consequences rather than the immediate distractions.
So, in the future before you decide to participate in some office gossip, perhaps run the distillation test?