A few days ago I bought the Karate Kid trilogy on Amazon and was so excited when it arrived Friday afternoon. That night, our family had a movie marathon and stayed up past midnight watching all three. The last time I watched Karate Kid, I too was a kid and I don’t think I understood the significance of some of Mr. Miyagi’s wisdom. One of his quotes “Daniel-San, lie become truth only if person wanna believe it,” was very relevant in my life this week. There were two different instances, one at work with an employee and one with a family member. I won’t talk about either one of those instances here, but I will use another to illustrate that things are not always as they appear. Over the past few weeks, an article has been shared by thousands about a Chick-fil-A that has “Back the Blue” shirts. The truth is that these shirts were made over a year ago to support a local high school. It was for what we call a “spirit night” or fundraiser night, not a political statement. This blog is not about taking either side of this issues, but when two people or groups are arguing, how do you know who’s right? Two things to consider are both people’s perspectives and perceptions. Each person’s perception and perspective are truth to them. It’s the way they see it and interpret what they see. They may not have the full perspective and as a result there perception may be skewed. Here’s an example: if I look at a sign that only has writing on one side that says “do not enter” then from my perspective of the sign I can see that it has a message. The other person approaching the sign from the other direction clearly sees that the sign is blank and there is no message on the sign. Who is right? Well they both are from their perspective. Now let’s talk about perception. After reading the message, I believe the sign is protecting me from something. The other person thinks the sign has no purpose. The truth is that it is a one way street. However, if the other person later finds out that it had a message, they could possibly be angry at the sign and say that it was intentionally putting them in harms way, which is obviously not true. Our lesson in leadership is the importance for us to listen to both perspectives and help clear up the perception. As leaders, it is our job to help everyone see the truth and in this case to point out that the sign was not being deceptive because it was blank on one side. Although the person may feel it was “not protecting” them, since from their perspective it did not say “do not enter,” in actuality from that direction there wasn’t any danger. Social media is a two edged sword and if we are not careful we will spread lies that will cause additional hurt and anger. Socrates used what he called the “test of three.”
The legend says that one day a young man ran up to the great philosopher and said: “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”
Socrates: “Wait a moment, before you tell me, I’d like you to pass a little test, it’s called the test of three.”
Young man: “Test of three?”
Socrates: “That’s right, before you talk to me about my student let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is TRUTH. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
Young man: “No, actually I just heard about it.”
Socrates: “All right, so you don’t really know if it’s truth or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of GOODNESS. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”
Young man: “No, on the contrary…”
Socrates: “So, you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?”
*The young man shrugged, a little embarrassed.
Socrates: “You may still pass though, because there is a third test, the filter of USEFULNESS. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”
Young man: “No, not really.”
Socrates: “Well, if what you want to tell me is neither TRUE nor GOOD nor USEFUL, why tell it to me at all?”
*The man was defeated and ashamed and just walked away.
As leaders, before we make accusations or before we share something on social media, Socrate’s test of three is a good tool to keep us from causing additional hurt and anger in a world that already has too much.