How Do You Know Who's Telling The Truth?

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Every day, through every form of media available, someone is telling us something. We’re told the best way, the worst way, who’s guilty, who’s innocent, what happened, and what didn’t. How do you know who is telling the truth? Not too long ago, I came up with the acronym - STORY (Situation That Overtly Rules You). The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize a very telling and compelling “truth”; we believe what we want to believe. This in itself isn’t that profound, but I really thought about the impact of how that affects our life and the lives of others.

Let’s face it; everyone and I do mean everyone, chooses to accept or dismiss information they are presented with. Sometimes it’s with very little thought regarding the source.

Imagine the conversation that begins with “You’re never going to believe this.” Let that marinate for a moment. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Pretty funny, huh? Here are two more - “too good to be true,” or “hard to believe.” What makes this so interesting is the lead-in prompts you and usually piques your curiosity. You want to hear more. We don’t normally take it literally, although it does prepare for the somewhat unbelievable. On the other hand, there are time where we see or hear something and take some time to weigh the evidence before we decide to accept or deny. I would assert it often times depends on the source.

We are more likely to believe something from a source we trust. Why wouldn’t we? It makes perfect sense; until it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you all of a sudden start to questions a source you trust. What I am suggesting is to evoke more discernment in the process. Critical thinking is a scientific art form that follows a fairly simple formula.

Socrates is credited with a philosophy called the “Test of Three.” I happen to love things in three, but that’s for another time. This is best associated with how to refrain from gossip but I thought it could apply here as well. The three tests are: 1) truth, 2) goodness, and 3) usefulness. I’ll paraphrase for now but invite you to read the entire dialogue. When verifying a story, first do your best to determine if the source it true and factual. Second, is it something good? Goodness can be relative, however I would simply suggest to test it for sincerity as opposed to being mean-spirited. Last, is it useful? Is it edifying? Will it move you forward or serve a “useful” purpose? If it fails any one of these three tests, there’s a good chance it doesn’t serve you, or anyone else for that matter.

How many times have you seen a social media post that has amassed scores, if not hundreds or thousands of views or likes? Or better yet, posts that have been shared time and time again? Perhaps you’ve shared something before; I know I have.

Several weeks ago, I actually “fell” into that trap. It seemed benign enough. It was a post on LinkedIn, a professional online networking site. Someone had offered congratulations to a young lady who had received a tremendous honor. Having an adult daughter myself, I was touched and decided to offer my congratulations as well. Come to find out, the story was completely false. I, like so many others, fell for it hook line and sinker! What actually alerted me was the response of someone else who commented about the the post having no merit. I decided to research it on my own. He was right! As I said, it was fairly benign. But what if it hadn’t been? What if it wasn’t LinkedIn? What if it was a malicious accusation? What if someone’s career, reputation, or even their life was at stake? What then?

One of my closest friends often says, “You can’t unbake a cake.” It’s true. Once the ingredients of unfounded malady are blended, consumed and digested, the result is a noxious recipe of disastrous proportions. Sadly, once disseminated, it becomes virtually impossible to separate fact from fiction. As you know, it’s much easier to speak the truth than to unravel a lie (intentional or otherwise).

If we’re ever going to make a difference in this world, we would be much better off to consider the wisdom of Socrates and his “Test of Three.” My Christian faith teaches me the Lord is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Many other religious teachings have similar principles. Whatever your position, whatever your faith, we already have a blueprint that guides our moral compass. What if we shared that instead?

I believe deep down inside, we all want many of the same things in life. With that in mind, the next time you see or hear a “juicy” story, make sure it passes the “Test of Three.” It really won’t take long. As I’ve said before, it only takes a moment to change the world.

As a certified coach, Reginald works with leaders from the boardroom to the classroom. Whether they are executives navigating the next chapter in their career, or college students ready to embark on the world beyond campus life or academia, he helps them identify what’s been alluding them, and achieve the success they’re looking for.

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