Tappahannock Rotary Club
PO Box 2672, Tappahannock, Virginia 22560
Rotary # 5838 - District # 7610

The Four-Way Test

Of the things we think, say or do
  1. Is it the TRUTH?

  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?


  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Being a Member of Tappahannock Rotary
New Rotary Member Information Form
(Please enter online and print for the club secretary)
Paul Harris Speech - Boston 1933

The following article is reproduced from a 1957 Rotary International publication. 

How it Works.

Repeatedly, world statesmen have confessed that their efforts are foredoomed if people lack respect and understanding one for another. This places a primary responsibility on the individual, says Angus Mitchell, President of Rotary International, 1948-49, to see that his attitude in the course of his daily affairs will build mutual respect and understanding. If each of us were to use The Four-Way Test, says Mr. Mitchell, we would begin to make progress toward the solution of world problems.

How The Test works is indicated by the Chicago Rotarian who developed it. He suggests that first you memorize The Four-Way Test and then formulate the habit of checking your thoughts, words and deeds with it.

The Four-Way Test is now being used successfully around the world in business, government and schools as an effective measuring stick for conduct. It is a guide to RIGHT thinking. If memorized and constantly applied to relations with others, it will make a definite contribution toward more effective and friendlier relationships.

If you get into the habit of checking your thoughts, words and deeds against The Four-Way Test, the experience of others has shown that it will help you become happier and more successful.


Story of the Four-Way Test
(By Herbert J. Taylor - RI President 1954/55)

Back in 1932 I was assigned, by the Creditors of the Club Aluminum Company, the task of saving the company from being closed out as a bankrupt organization. The company was a distributor of cookware and other house-hold items. We found that the company owed its creditors over $400,000 more than its total assets. It was bankrupt but still alive.

At that time we borrowed $6,100 from a Chicago bank to give us a little cash on which to operate.While we had a good product our competitors also had fine cookware with well-advertised brand names. Our company also had some fine people working for it, but our competitors also had the same. Our competitors were naturally in much stronger financial condition than we were.With tremendous obstacles and handicaps facing us we felt that we must develop in our organization something which our competitors would not have in equal amount. We decided that it should be the character, dependability and service mindedness of our personnel. We determined, first, to be very careful in the selection of our personnel and, second, to help them become better men and women as they progressed with our company.We believed that "In right there is might" and we determined to do our best to always be right. Our industry, as was true of scores of other industries, had a code of ethics - but the code was long, almost impossible to memorize and therefore impractical. We felt that we needed a simple measuring stick of ethic which everyone in the company could quickly memorize. We also believed that the proposed test should not tell our people what they must do, but ask them questions which would make it possible for them to find out whether their proposed planes, policies, statements or actions were right or wrong.Considerable time was spent in developing four short questions which now make up The Four-Way Test. Here are the four questions:-

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build good will and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

I placed this little test under the glass top of my desk and determined to try it out for a few days before talking to anyone else in the company about it. I had a very discouraging experience. I almost threw it into the wastepaper basket the first day when I checked everything that passed over my desk with the first question, "Is it the truth?" I never realized before how far I often was from the truth and how many untruths appeared in our company's literature, letters and advertising.After about sixty days of faithful constant effort on my part to live up to The Four-Way Test I was thoroughly sold on its great worth and at the same time greatly humiliated, and at times discouraged, with my own performance as president of the company. I had, however, made sufficient progress in living up to The Four-Way Test to feel qualified to talk to some of my associates about it. I discussed it with my four department heads. You may be interested in knowing the religious faith of these four men. One was a Roman Catholic, the second a Christian Scientist, the third an Orthodox Jew and the forth a Protestant.I asked each man whether or not there was anything in The Four-Way Test which was contrary to the doctrines and ideals of his particular faith. They all four agreed that truth, justice, friendliness and helpfulness not only coincided with their religious ideals, but that if constantly applied in business they should result in greater success and progress. These four men agreed to use The Four-Way Test in checking proposed planes, policies, statements and advertising of the company. Later, all employees were asked to memorize and use The Four-Way Test in their relations with others.The checking of advertising copy against The Four-Way Test resulted in the elimination of statements the truth of which could not be proved. All superlatives such as the words better, best, greatest, and finest disappeared from our advertisements. As a results, the public gradually placed more confidence in what we stated in our advertisements and bought more of our products.The constant use of The Four-Way Test caused us to change our policies covering relations with competitors. We eliminated all adverse or detrimental comments on our competitors' products from our advertisements and literature. When we found an opportunity to speak well of our competitors we did so. Thus we gained the confidence and friendship of our competitors. The application of The Four-Way Test to our relations with our own personnel and that of our suppliers and customers helped us to win their friendship and good will. We have learned that the friendship and confidence of those with whom we associate is essential to permanent success in business.Through over twenty years of sincere effort on the part of our personnel, we have been making steady progress toward meeting the ideals expressed in The Four-Way Test. We have been rewarded with a steady increase in sales, profits and earnings of our personnel. From a bankrupt condition in 1932 our company has paid its debts in full, has paid its stockholders over one-million dollars in dividends and has a present value of over two-million dollars. All of these rewards have come from a cash investments of only $6,100, The Four-Way Test and some good hard working people who have faith in God and high ideals.Intangible dividends from the use of The Four-Way Test have been even greater than the financial ones. We have enjoyed a constant increase in the good will, friendship and confidence of our customers, our competitors and the public - and what is even more valuable, a great improvement in the moral character of our personnel.

We have found that you cannot apply The Four-Way Test to all your relations with others eight hours each day in business without getting into the habit of doing it in your home, social and community life. You thus become a better father, a better friend and a better citizen.

RI Document 6415 (12) - Feb. '57

Return to
Home Page

Tappahannock Rotary Club - Virginia 22560

Rotary District 7610 Rotary International