Socrates, the great philosopher (469 – 399 B.C.) was trained as a "sophist". Sophists were people who played with words and showed how careful choice of words could lead you to almost any conclusion you wanted.
Socrates was interested in challenging people’s thinking and, indeed, getting them to think at all instead of just taking things for granted. He wanted people to examine what they meant when they said something. He was not concerned with building things up or making things happen.
Socrates has become renowned for his contribution to the field of ethics, and from him we got the great emphasis on argument and critical thinking. Socrates chose to make argument the main thinking tool. Within argument, there was to be critical thinking: Why do you say that? What do you mean by that?
Read more about the Socratic method – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socrates
Let me illustrate how critical thinking can be applied to the passing on of stories, as that is normally how rumours start.
One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, "Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"
"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied. "Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test."
"That’s right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"
"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and…"
"All right," said Socrates. "So you don’t really know if it’s true or not.
Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?"
"No, on the contrary…"
"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?"
"No, not really."
"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?"
This is why Socrates was a great philosopher & held in such high esteem. The lesson in this story is quite clear.
Next time someone tells you a story about anyone, just apply the Triple Filter Test. I am sure that more times than not, that there; will be no story to pass on.