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Advice from Socrates

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This is a great story attributed to Socrates with a message that is more important today than ever:

One day, a man rushed up to Socrates, saying, “I have some news to tell you!”

Socrates put up his hand to stop the excited man.

“First let me ask you three questions,” Socrates said.

“Okay,” said the man

Socrates asked, “Is the news you are about to tell me something you personally know to be true?”

“Well, no,” replied the man.  “I heard it from a good source though.”

“Let’s go to the second question,” Socrates said.  “Is the news you want to tell me about someone you know personally?”

“Well, no,” the man said.  “But I think you know the person.”

“I see,” said Socrates.  “Then let me ask you my final question.  Is this news positive or negative?”

“Well, it’s negative,” replied the man.

“Let me see,” said the wise Socrates.  “You want to tell me some news that you don’t personally know to be true, about someone you don’t know, and the news is negative.”

“Well, it sounds bad when you put it like that,” said the man.

“I think I’ll pass,” Socrates replied.

Be honest.  How many times have we done this very thing?  Enthusiastically shared information or news about someone when we don’t know the facts, circumstances or possibly even the person we are talking about.  Even worse how often do we then make judgments about those individuals based on what we think we know?

The next time you are tempted listen to someone gossip, judge or criticize another person take a moment to think back on the sage Socrates and say, “I think I’ll pass.”

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