The Four-Way Test

action decision good manners Jan 23, 2023

Making the right decisions is essential in business and life. The Four-Way Test is a guide that can help us make the right decisions. Rotary International utilizes this test, consisting of four questions: 1) Is it the truth? 2) Is it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned? By asking ourselves these questions, we can make informed decisions that will benefit everyone involved.

An ethical guide to making decisions and taking actions

The Four-Way Test is a moral code used by Rotary International. It serves as a guide for practicing business ethics but can also be applied to other aspects of life. It is practiced by their members worldwide whenever they have to make decisions and actions that can affect others.

Herbert J. Taylor, a Rotary Club member, created the Four-Way Test. Back in 1932, he set out to find a way to save the Club Aluminum company from bankruptcy. He thought of the test as a way for people to practice the proper conduct in doing business so the company as a whole would do the right thing and be able to rise again, and it did later.

While the Four-Way Test sounds like something applicable mainly to our business and professional lives, it is also something we can apply to our daily lives. It can be beneficial when making decisions or taking actions that affect our career and personal growth. For example, suppose you are in a leadership position and have to make decisions and actions that can affect others. In that case, the Four-Way Test is an excellent ethical guide to ensure we make the right choices that benefit everyone. It is pretty easy to remember too, so if we face some moral dilemma regarding our decisions, we can turn to the four questions stated in the test and see if we can come up with a practical choice.

1. Is it the truth?

Truth can be a subjective matter. Each of us has our perspective of the truth, and the truth we know may not necessarily be a universal fact. Nevertheless, it is essential that what we do and thinks adheres to the truth we know and, if possible, to the undeniable facts we have around us. It is even more so if we have to make policies and decisions for others. What we propose for everybody else to follow and do must be something that conforms to the truth. It mustn't betray people's beliefs and stick close to facts as much as possible. Sometimes, we may have to make choices that go against what people believe is true, but if it is something for their good and the decision is not meant to deceive them, then we can still go for it and help people realize the benefits that such choices can bring. What is important is that we don't make decisions and actions that ultimately serve only ourselves at the cost of making a fool out of others.

2. Is it fair to all concerned?

It can be challenging to make decisions and enforce policies that work in favor of everyone concerned. However, we should still do our best to find a way to make decisions that will serve all or most people in a good way. As much as possible, we should avoid implementing policies that help specific groups of people at the cost of another group. Everybody must benefit somehow; no one should end in defeat or loss. Even if some people have some loss on a decision or policy, we should strive to make decisions that give each one an opportunity for greater success. Sure, it may seem unfair to see one who comes out on top or wins, but if they were able to do that after giving everybody a chance to achieve success, it all boils down now to who exerts effort and perseveres to grab the winning opportunity. What's essential is that the playing field is fair, and as a leader, we can do something to create such an even place for everybody.

3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

One good way to test if we are making a good decision is to ask ourselves if it will strengthen our relationships with others by creating a product or a result that benefits others and can make them have a good impression on us. As a leader, you may ask yourself if the decision and policies you do work to improve the lives of others and if it is not just for some self-serving interest. As an individual, you can think about how your choices and actions will impact others around you, even if it is mainly only for your benefit. Decisions and actions that spread goodwill after implementation are good choices. When people have a positive impression of an action or decision you made, it can lead to them becoming more willing to cooperate and follow you, leading to more prosperity and happiness along the way. To feel more fulfilled and happy in life, sometimes you need to focus first on making others feel the same way, which can spread to you. Respect and trust get built along the way, and one can make steady progress in moving forward if everybody else agrees with you.

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Along with trying to make sure our decisions are fair to everyone involved, it's also good to consider whether they will benefit people. No problem if it's only you deciding something for yourself, but if others are affected or involved in your choices directly or indirectly, it can be good to consider if they will benefit positively from what we do. Trying to make everyone win in some way can be challenging, but if possible, we should try to make choices that do this. People will feel happy and fulfilled if they make sufficient progress and improvement in their lives, so if a decision allows them to achieve these, then it's a good decision. It almost sounds ideal for making such propositions, but wouldn't it be nice if everyone gains something from a choice or policy? We can strive to aim for such decisions as much as we can.

Test yourself if you are doing the right thing

The Four-Way Test is a simple measuring stick one can use in everyday life whenever we have to make a decision or action. You don't even have to be a member of the Rotary Club to apply it in your life. It is a simple test that you can use to guide yourself in making the right choices and see if they are worth it. It is even more so if you are a leader and need to do something for the welfare of others. The Four-Way Test can help you determine if what you are doing is ethical and if it can foster respect, trust, and integrity among people and yourself.

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