A few months ago I read a lovely book, L’âme du monde by F. Lenoir, and in it I came across the following:

“A man visits a wise old man:

– Master, I must tell you how your disciple behave.

– Hold it right there, says the old man, did you put what you’re about to tell me through the 3 sieves?

– The 3 sieves? says the man, surprised.

– What you want to say must go through the 3 sieves. The first one is the sieve of Truth, have you checked what you want to say is true?

– No, I heard it from…

– OK, therefore you must have put it through the second sieve, the sieve of Kindness. If it is not entirely true, I’m sure it must be kind.

– No, not at all…

– Hmm, in this case let’s put it through the third sieve, is what you want to tell me useful?

– Useful, not really.

– So, concluded the wise man smiling, if what you want to tell me is neither true, kind or useful I rather not hear it. As for you I suggest you forget about it.”

Have you managed to read it without donning a Yoda voice? I struggle. I’ve since discovered it is a fable from Socrates.

I found it incredibly useful, I shared it with work colleagues as so-called water-cooler conversations can quickly turn into something much more toxic. I’ve also discussed it with my daughter who is in secondary school  (can be a hotbed for bitchiness) and she put it into practice a few weeks later. She said she felt a lot lighter for having closed down the topic before it turned into full-on mean gossip.

On the whole I find gossiping  a waste of useful energy. It’s like a naughty indulgence, in my case Haribo, I love the high but not the after-taste. It leaves me feeling rather low. I am not very proud of myself, like my mates and I should have done something constructive with the energy we used gossiping.

It’s also a waste of time. The whole point of gossip is that no action is taken at the end (at best the action is to stop gossiping!). It is just idle babble that can eat up hours.

I include celebrity gossip which is difficult to escape nowadays. In some ways it is even worse as you are wasting time, energy and sometime money on people you don’t even know for goodness’ sake. If you had to put the content of those mags and websites through the 3 sieves there wouldn’t be much left to tell.

So I try to steer clear of gossip. I’m over the magazines, I actually find them boring. I hardly ever click onto gossipy websites. Not so easy with friends/neighbours/online forums, the temptation regularly presents itself but I try to be mindful of what I say. Not easy for me as I am a recovering from a bad case of ‘foot in mouth’. I take my time speaking and quickly go through the 3 sieves. I am improving and I keep Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote front of mind:

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”

Funnily enough that could have been said in a particularly bitchy girls’ night, no?

Let’s keep on trying to eradicate gossip for the greater good.

leadership-socrates-gossip-3 sieves


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic so please share in the comments



PS: I don’t believe L’âme du monde is translated into English but here is more info: about the book and about Frederic Lenoir


One Comment

  1. Admin

    I noted that this post has ended up on and one commenter mentioned that it was ridiculous and that life would be boring if we constantly measured what we said + sometimes you say something unkind/untrue/not useful just because it’s funny. That’s interesting and I would like to clarify:
    1/ It is a fable which means that it does tend to be black & white to get the point across.
    2/ I don’t expect anyone would be so ‘holy’ that nothing unkind/untrue/not useful would cross their lips, ever. It is more about being a tad more mindful what we say because once the words are spoken (and especially if they are heard) they will have an impact.
    3/ I’ve made fun of people to amuse people around me, to be witty and clever…and I’ve felt c**p afterward thinking about the impact my words may have had. I’ve also been at the receiving end and years later and can hear these words in my ear crystal clear. In both cases it was low energy I was experiencing and I don’t like it.
    In any case I’m glad it got the conversation started (well from 1 person anyway!) that’s what I’m hoping from this blog so thank you anonymous commenter on <3

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