Compliment people. Sometimes you will say something really small and simple, but it will fit right into an empty space in someone’s heart.
This morning, I shared two quick stories on Zoom with a small group of digital Think Better, Live Better conference attendees. “I appreciate the perspective, and the invitation to change how I show up in my relationships,” one attendee replied. A dozen others said they agreed. So, I figured I’d share these stories with you in hopes that you find value in them too. Try to read each one slowly and thoughtfully. Take the little lessons to heart. See how doing so changes how you show up in your interactions and conversations with others today…
Story #1 — True, Good, and Useful
A couple thousand years ago in ancient Greece, the great philosopher Socrates was strolling contemplatively around a community garden when a neighbor walked up to him and said, “You’re never in a million years going to believe what I just heard about our mutual friend…”
“Wait,” Socrates interrupted, putting his hand up in the air. “Before you continue with this story, your words must pass the triple filter test?”
“The triple filter test,” Socrates said.
The neighbor just stared at him with a blank expression.
Socrates continued, “The first filter is Truth. Are you absolutely sure the story you are about to tell me is true?”
“Well, no,” the neighbor said, “I literally just heard it from someone else I know.”
“Ah-ha…” Socrates quickly replied, “then let’s move on to the second filter. Is what you are about to share Good in any way, shape or form?”
“No… no,” the neighbor said, “This story is actually quite…”
Before he could finish his sentence, Socrates interrupted him again, “Ahh… so it may not be true and it is definitely not good.”
“That’s right,” the neighbor assured him.
“Well, you may still be able to save yourself,” Socrates said. “Is anything about the story you want to share Useful?”
The neighbor stared blankly again for a moment and then said, “No, I suppose it’s not really…”
“So, you want to tell me something that may not be true, is definitely not good, and is not useful to know?” Socrates asked. The neighbor looked down at the ground and nodded. “Well, you have no good reason to tell me this story, and you have no good reason to believe it yourself,” Socrates added, as the neighbor dolefully walked away.
. . .
In many ways, not too much has changed since ancient Greece, especially when it comes to the stories we tell ourselves and drama we perpetuate…
Every single day, we invest valuable time and energy into drama and hearsay. Many of us plug into social media first thing in the morning for reasons that have zero to do with what is true for us, good for us, and useful for those around us. Instead, we do it mostly as a default nervous reaction.
In an expansive universe in which there are abundant opportunities to discover what’s true, what’s good, and what’s useful, when we do the opposite, we know it. And while making that compromise — with lots of mind-numbing gossip — is tolerable for a little while, eventually it isn’t anymore. Our negligence catches up to us, and we begin to feel pain.
Don’t fall into the trap today. Instead take Socrates’ advice: simply focus on what is true, good, and useful. It worked well for Socrates a couple thousand years ago, and I assure you it continues to work well for many people today.
Story #2 — How to Love
You’d like Michelle a lot. Most people do. She’s the kind of person who listens when you talk, who smiles often, and who says things that make the people around her smile. She’s incredibly intelligent, but in a way that makes others feel comfortable. It’s the way she expresses herself in simple terms you can understand — almost like she’s articulating the thoughts you already have in your head, but haven’t quite…