The test of three

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- At a recent commander's call, I outlined how I expect the members of the 21st Medical Operations Squadron to treat one another. In preparing for the topic, I ran across a story about rumors which ostensibly originated with Socrates. I found the story applicable not only in terms of customer service -- which I also expect to be outstanding for our patients -- but also in many other circumstances we encounter on a daily basis. Before sharing my thoughts, I'll share the story first ...The Test of Three.

The story tells how in ancient Greece, an acquaintance of the philosopher Socrates approached him to tell Socrates a story about one of his students.

Socrates told him before sharing the story, he must first pass the Test of Three - is the information true, good and useful.

When his acquaintance admitted the information could not be verified as true, and was neither good nor useful, Socrates dismissed his information.

The military has a long history of internal and external unit rivalries. In most cases they have a healthy, competitive context. The rivalries go awry when they fall prey to rumors that cause personnel to lose focus on their mission and role. In this information age we live in, it is important for us to apply a personal filter to the things we see and hear. If each individual has a tool to help sort good, true and useful information from misinformation, we have the start to a great foundation for good order and customer service.

Those same filters have direct applicability to daily life, particularly in an era where cyberbullying has become an issue for our 21st Century Airmen. It's a simple way to deal with the volume of information we encounter. Admittedly not all information aligns neatly into the categories according to Socrates' recommendation, but the filters of true, good and useful can be an excellent guide for interpreting information gained about others.

I suggest you keep the Test of Three in mind the next time you either hear or read stories about others, or are about to repeat or post a rumor.