The Three Gates
"The Three Gates We all say or write things we wish we hadn’t, and it causes stress. And we often speak words that ultimately hurt others or weave their way into our minds and stress us for longer than we anticipated. There’s an age-old filtering practice I’d like to share with you. I’ve been told that Socrates referred to it as the Three Questions, that Quakers call it the Test of Three, and that it’s known in some cultures as the Three Sieves (like sifting flour). David Simon taught it to me as The Three Gates. We are constantly absorbing information through our five senses, our imagination, and our intellect. We hear words or have an interaction and it triggers thought, which touches on a memory, sparking an emotion, which then weaves its way through our conditioned response mechanism, and a whole unconscious process begins . . . often ending with us saying something that doesn’t necessarily add value to our life or anyone else’s. The premise of The Three Gates is that just because you think something, that doesn’t mean you have to say it. In fact, before you say something . . . anything . . . you should pass your words through three gates to see if those words are worthy of making it into the tangible world. The process takes only a few seconds and may save you much heartache, regret, and stress. Here’s how it works: As a thought pops into your head, first ask the question, Is it true? Did you read it, watch it, or hear it? Is it rumor or from a credible source? Is it fact or gossip? Is someone telling you something filled with emotional charge? Are they providing all the information? Do you know the backstory? Is there a way for you to verify before you act? If it’s not valid, it does not pass the test, and it does not proceed to the next gate. You don’t repeat it. It dies right there. And by placing no more attention on it, its power diminishes, as does its impact on stress in your life. (When you start adding more emotional charge to something that’s not even true or that you can’t determine is true, that’s a lot of effort and energy applied in a direction that does not serve you.) However, if it does ring true, you proceed to the next gate. At the next gate, you ask the question, Is it kind? Conscious communication teaches us that our words should be kind. No one benefits from harsh words or ones that are carrying emotional charge. The message gets clouded—the words take on unintended meanings—and the damage can last in perpetuity. Of course, there are often messages that we need to express that are not in fact kind, such as firing someone, correcting someone’s behavior, or telling someone bad news. Whatever the message might be, in all those instances we can opt to speak it in a kind way. Wouldn’t you want to be fired with compassion? Wouldn’t you prefer to be corrected in a benevolent way rather than with a smack? Wouldn’t you rather someone break up with you in a kind way? If it’s true and it’s kind, proceed to the third gate, which asks, Is it necessary? or as Socrates said, Is it useful? Something might be true, and it might even be kind, but if it’s unnecessary, then it should die right there. Why put time, effort, and emotional investment into introducing unnecessary or useless information into the world? If you are still not sure, ask, How important is it? or Will it improve upon the silence? How necessary is it for you to flow this information out into the world? If after applying the third filter, you determine that it’s simply not necessary to bring it up, or it adds no value to the tangible world, then let it go. Let the whole flow of thought conclude and just move on. (We could do this with 50 percent of what we think.) But if it meets all three criteria—true, kind, and necessary—then rock on! Flow those words! And pass on the power of The Three Gates."