Category: Inter-Personal Communication

Stop Rumours using the Triple Filter Test


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."

"Triple filter?"

"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.

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Call It A Waterfront Property – Reframing In Action


The term reframing is a communication technique which has origins in family systems therapy and the work of Virginia Satir. Milton H. Erickson has been associated with reframing and it also forms an important part of Neuro-linguistic programming.

Our frame of reference or lens through which we view things or situations is used when we infer meaning. If any part of that frame is changed (hence ‘reframing’), then the meaning that is inferred may change.

A Practical example is to say ‘Let’s look at it another way.’ Our choice of language can therefore change the meaning of the situation or scene. I guess some people will call this ‘spin’ in public Relations work. By selecting and ignore aspects of words, actions and frame, we can emphasise or downplay various elements.

Thus, for example, you can reframe:

  • A problem as an opportunity
  • A weakness as a strength
  • An impossibility as a distant possibility
  • A situation as an accident. Example – ‘He hit her’ to ‘He accidentally hit her’

An interesting example is the word Crisis which in Mandarin has two meanings – Disaster and Opportunity. Thus a crisis has two sides to the coin. It can either be a disaster or an opportunity to rectify and do things better next time.

Anthony Robbins wrote, "A signal has meaning only in the frame or context in which we perceive it." For example, if a person is resting in bed and hears his bedroom door open, that exact same noise will have two totally different meanings to him and evoke drastically different reactions depending on whether (1) he is alone in a locked house, or (2) he had previously invited his friend over and left the back door to his house unlocked.

According to Anthony Robbins: ‘If we perceive something as a liability, that’s the message we deliver to our brain. Then the brain produces states that make it a reality. If we change our frame of reference by looking at the same situation from a different point of view, we can change the way we respond in life. We can change our representation or perception about anything and in a moment change our states and behaviours. This is what reframing is all about’.

Reframing has its advantages. Especially in organizational behaviour work like problem solving and decision-making. By changing frames we can help clients to view situations and problems through different lenses, which could result in unexpected breakthroughs.

On the other hand, it can also result in mistrust and a negative reputation as the following example suggests.

The senior estate agent to novice: ‘Remember to be creative. For instance, if you have a house with a big birdbath on the front lawn, never describe it as a house with a big birdbath on the front lawn.

Call it a waterfront property.’

Bottom Line; Use reframing with care. People ain’t stupid!

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Is Opinion Man’s Reality?


2_5 It is often stated that Opinion is man’s reality.

That is wrong! There are subjective and objective reality.

Subjective reality, is reality seen through our inner mental filters that are shaped by our past conditioning. Objective reality is how things really are.

Although it is possible to perceive objectively, we cannot take in the totality of reality and say anything about it; we can only point to some of its characteristics, since we all trapped by our own mental cages – we are all biased.

So whenever we explore reality in any specific manner, we have to leave out something. For example, when you describe an orange, you cannot say anything about its totality. You have to talk about its colour or its taste or its shape. If you want your description to encompass the whole thing — its colour, shape, and taste all together — you can only say, "orange."

It is the same with objective reality. If you want to say anything about it, you have to focus on its specific characteristics.

An important part is to understand the view of objective reality. This understanding comes through discussions about it and through your own investigation, your own exploration and experience. This view is, in some sense, not one experience, but what unifies all experiences. It is the over-arching picture that makes all experiences intelligible and meaningful. The more we understand the view of objective reality, the more we know where we are in our journey.

The more we understand the view, the more we know how distorted or how objective our experience is. Thus, understanding the view is a valuable guidance and an important orientation. In time, as our realization process progresses and deepens, our experience corresponds more with the view. When experience is exactly harmonious with the view, this is what is called total realization or enlightenment.

To move us along this understanding continuum, I believe that research and more knowledge can assist. For instance, it is only once a doctor has positively diagnosed an illness that we should really start to worry about it.

That is why it is so important in my reputation work that clients communicate effectively. Knowledge backed up by substantiated facts – verified research can often assist in shifting opinion away from subjectivity to objectivity, hence the importance of strategic stakeholder –specific communication plans. However feelings and emotions are a separate issue to be dealt with.

Example: In a crisis, when there has been a death, you need to deal with the emotions and then the facts.

Perhaps this story explains it all : A man, who is the father of a year-old youngster, met his pastor on Sunday afternoon.

"Why weren’t you at church this morning?" was the first question of the spiritual adviser.

"I couldn’t come," was the answer. "I had to stop at home and mind the baby; our nurse is ill."

"That’s no excuse," said the pastor.

"It isn’t? Well, next Sunday I’ll bring him to church with me and see how you like it."

Action Plan Lesson – Always be ready to communicate the truth.

The Phrases That Kill Creativity


imagePR and Advertising agencies are supposed to be creative greenhouses. Yet, the old "Internal editor" in all of us, raises it’s head so easy. The "internal editor" I believe is our internal voice , our conscience, our left brain that can sometimes stop us from progressing.

Years ago I worked with a consultant, a retired CEO who said the following : “ The danger with gut feel is that it SOMETIMES can cause indigestion”.

Evaluate the following statements and ask yourself : " How often you have used these statements?" Did they prove to be correct?

  • We tried that before
  • Where’d you dig that one up?
  • Our business is different
  • It costs too much
  • It’s never been tried before
  • That’s not my job
  • Let’s put that one on the back burner for now
  • Let’s form a committee
  • We don’t have the time
  • I don’t see the connection
  • It won’t work in our department or business
  • It’s too radical a change
  • The Board of Directors would never go for it
  • The staff will never buy it
  • It’s against company policy
  • It can’t be done
  • It’s impossible
  • Let’s get back to reality
  • That’s not our problem
  • We’ve always done it this way
  • I don’t like the idea
  • You’re right, but…
  • You’re two years ahead of your time
  • Don’t rock the boat
  • It isn’t in the budget
  • Has anyone else ever tried it?
  • Good thought, but impractical
  • Let’s give it more thought

If not, or if they did! What is the lesson for your consultancy or team? Please let me know!

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Face to Face remains a Vital Tool


Despite the rise in virtual meetings, business executives prefer face-to-face meetings, according to the results of a recent Forbes Insights study.

The study, ‘’Business Meetings: The Case for Face-to-Face,”” was based on a June survey of 760 business executives. It found that 84% prefer in-person
contact to virtual because face-to-face meetings enable them to build stronger relationships (85%) and provide greater opportunity to “read”
another person (77%).

Nonetheless, teleconferences, videoconferences and Web conferences have grown as 58% of respondents said they were travelling less for business now
than in January 2008.Those that preferred virtual meetings cited the time savings (92%) and the financial savings (88%).

This is further proof that a person’s use of any tools needs to be carefully weighed against advantages and disadvantages.

A Communication “Bill of Rights”


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I recently had to facilitate an improved service level agreement between two parties in the IT field. The particular project was about to be shelved by the client due to severe scope creep.

I quickly assessed that one of the root causes of the scope creep was caused by the lack of defining interpersonal and organizational communication proccesses before the start of the project.

To help them solve this problem, I got them to draw up a communication ” bill of rights”. These guidelines will now form the basis for future dealings and relationships.

A Bill of Rights is defined as the formal summary of those rights and liberties considered essential to a people or group of people:example – a consumer bill of rights.

In this instance it was useful to develop such a communication bill of rights to govern the communication processes between the client and the supplier.

This is what the group decided upon:

  1. Agree on a glossary of terms. Always check for understanding.
  2. Communicate without an element of commercial interest at first.
  3. Any form of communication that impact in terms of time; scope or money must be formalised.
  4. Be specific. Relate this to standards specification.
  5. Listen! Listen! Listen!
  6. Always give feedback – Respond appropriately i.e. If you receive an e-mail with an idea, at least acknowledge receipt.
  7. Proper communication upfront at the start of a new project or phase with the whole team is essential.
  8. Establish channels of communication at the beginning of each new project.
  9. Communicate the Bill of rights – structure, purpose and method upfront.
  10. Separate personal issues from professional issues

You may find this technique useful the next time there is inter-departmental or client conflict. Facilitators often use it another form, such as establishing ground rules for a meeting.