83 Stoic Quotes and Phrases About Staying Quiet

Updated November 29, 2022

In these Stoic quotes and phrases about staying quiet, we are reminded of the importance of silence.

In our ever-connected world, it's easy to be constantly talking and communicating. However, there is tremendous value in keeping quiet and being deliberate when we do decide to speak. Not only can it help you avoid the embarrassment of talking without thinking, but it can also give you insight into other people and your own inner world.

Quotes About Staying Quiet

The ancient Stoics were well aware of the importance of thinking before speaking and how harmful it can be if we focus more on talking than staying quiet.

One of the Stoic ideas that can radically transform your life is the notion that we are in control of certain things in our lives and not in control of others. The things that we are in control of are those that are "of our own doing," according to Epictetus. Basically, this means things like our motivations, desires, beliefs, opinions, and speech.

The idea here is to point your attention toward the things you can control and learn to accept the things you cannot. Following this logic, the things you say are in your control, and you should therefore be very thoughtful and deliberate when you speak.

All around us, people are constantly chatting, talking, preaching, fighting, venting, and gossiping. We might not even notice our own participation in this fervor until we practice staying quiet. When you do deliberately remain silent until you have something you feel must be said, you'll notice how much of what is talked about is unnecessary and, in fact, a distraction from the things that do matter.

zeno of citium image and quote about talking

“Better to trip with the feet than the tongue.”

– Zeno of Citium

“See how soon everything is forgotten, and look at the chaos of infinite time on each side of the present, and the emptiness of applause, and the changeableness and want of judgment in those who pretend to give praise, and the narrowness of the space within which it is circumscribed, and be quiet at last.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Hour by hour resolve firmly to do what comes to hand with dignity, and with humanity, independence, and justice. Allow your mind freedom from all other considerations. This you can do, if you will approach each action as though it were your last, dismissing the desire to create an impression, the admiration of self, the discontent with your lot. See how little man needs to master, for his days to flow on in quietness and piety: he has but to observe these few counsels, and the gods will ask nothing more.

– Marcus Aurelius

“What is evil to thee does not subsist in the ruling principle of another; nor yet in any turning and mutation of thy corporeal covering. Where is it then? It is in that part of thee in which subsists the power of forming opinions about evils. Let this power then not form such opinions, and all is well. And if that which is nearest to it, the poor body, is burnt, filled with matter and rottenness, nevertheless let the part which forms opinions about these things be quiet, that is, let it judge that nothing is either bad or good which can happen equally to the bad man and the good. For that which happens equally to him who lives contrary to nature and to him who lives according to nature, is neither according to nature nor contrary to nature.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Every moment think steadily as a Roman and a man to do what thou hast in hand with perfect and simple dignity, and feeling of affection, and freedom, and justice; and to give thyself relief from all other thoughts. And thou wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason, and all hypocrisy, and self-love, and discontent with the portion which has been given to thee. Thou seest how few the things are, the which if a man lays hold of, he is able to live a life which flows in quiet, and is like the existence of the gods; for the gods on their part will require nothing more from him who observes these things.”

– Marcus Aurelius

But nothing will help quite so much as just keeping quiet, talking with other people as little as possible, with yourself as much as possible. For conversation has a kind of charm about it, an insinuating and insidious something that elicits secrets from us just like love or liquor. Nobody will keep the things he hears to himself, and nobody will repeat just what he hears and no more. Neither will anyone who has failed to keep a story to himself keep the name of his informant to himself. Every person without exception has someone to whom he confides everything that is confided to himself. Even supposing he puts some guard in his garrulous tongue and is content with a single pair of ears, he will still be the creator of a host of later listeners – such is the way in which what was but a little while before a secret becomes common rumor.”

– Seneca the Younger

“The man who spends his time choosing one resort after another in a hunt for peace and quiet will in every place he visits find something to prevent him from relaxing.”

– Seneca the Younger

“The surest way for those who want to rule is praising moderation, talking of peace and quiet.”

– Seneca the Younger

"Quiet people have the loudest minds."

– Stephen Hawking

"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."

– Franz Kafka

"The soul becomes prudent by sitting and being quiet."

– Aristotle

"Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm."

– Robert Louis Stevenson

Quotes About Thinking Before Speaking

Have you ever laid in bed at night filled with anxiety about something you said earlier that day (or even many years ago)? We've all been there-- this is an example of when we've spoken without thinking first. As you'll see in our first quote in this section, even the great and wise Seneca has had this experience.

seneca the younger image and quote about staying quiet

“When I think over what I have said, I envy the mute.”

– Seneca the Younger

"Everything you say should be true, but not everything true should be said."

– Voltaire

Quotes About Listening

It is all too easy to go through life without ever really listening to what other people are saying.

For example, have you ever been talking with someone only to realize that you were so focused on what you were going to say next that you didn't even really take in the point they were making?

When you actually listen to what is being said, there is much to be gained. You can learn about the people around you-- what they think, what they're concerned with, and so much more. You can also start to better understand what motivates and drives others and gain a deeper knowledge of human nature in general.

If you start listening more and talking less, all sorts of information that you've always had access to but never noticed before will make itself apparent. You might see that people you thought were smart are actually just blowing hot air, for instance, or that someone you never paid much mind actually has very insightful things to contribute to the conversation.

Sometimes, we don't listen to people because we think we already know what they're going to say. Maybe we think we're smarter than them or more knowledgeable. The truth is, though, that you are closing yourself off from learning new things and truly being present in the moment when you close yourself off from listening.

Zeno image and quote about listening

“We have two ears and one mouth, therefore we should listen twice as much as we speak.”

– Zeno of Citium

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

– Ernest Hemingway

"We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know."

– Carl Rogers

"So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it."
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
"It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear."
– Henry David Thoreau
"It takes a great man to be a good listener."
– Calvin Coolidge
"The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer."
– Henry David Thoreau

Stoic Quotes About an Inner life

One of the things that you stand to gain when you practice staying quiet is access to your own inner life. If this is a concept that you've never thought about before or that makes you feel uncomfortable, there's a good chance that you have lost your connection to your inner self over the years. This is incredibly common, as it's easy to let all of the aspects of day-to-day life demand our attention in a way that doesn't leave much room for introspection or deliberate time with our own thoughts, values, beliefs, feelings, and more.

If keeping quiet sounds stressful or boring to you, it simply means that you are the perfect candidate for an exercise in silence. This isn't to say that you don't have interesting things to say a lot of the time, but it does mean that you probably haven't been spending as much time as you could exploring and expanding your inner self.

Marcus Aurelius is clearly a man who has cultivated a deep and rich inner world. He talks about the ability to retreat into your own self at any time you want and that retiring into one's own soul is the place where there is the greatest amount of quiet and "freedom from trouble."

Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility; and I affirm that tranquility is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"If sensuality were happiness, beasts were happier than men; but human felicity is lodged in the soul, not in the flesh."

– Seneca the Younger

"Now we are not merely to stick knowledge on to the soul: we must incorporate it into her; the soul should not be sprinkled with knowledge but steeped in it."

– Seneca the Younger

“From the point of view of the imminence of death, one thing counts, and one alone: to strive always to have the essential rules of life present in one’s mind, and to keep placing oneself in the fundamental disposition of the philosopher, which consists essentially in controlling one’s inner discourse, in doing only that which is of benefit to the human community, and in accepting the events brought to us by the course of the Nature of the All.

– Pierre Hadot

"The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind."

– Albert Einstein

"The world of men has forgotten the joys of silence, the peace of solitude, which is necessary, to some extent, for the fullness of human living. Man cannot be happy for long unless he is in contact with the springs of spiritual life which are hidden in the depths of his own soul. If man is exiled constantly from his own home, locked out of his spiritual solitude, he ceases to be a true person."
– Thomas Merton

"Approach your own inner life with a loving quality that accepts who you are without trying to change who you are."

– Laozi
"The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings."
– Henri Frederic Amiel
"There is a stream, a succession of states, or waves, or fields (or whatever you please to call them), of knowledge, of feeling, of desire, of deliberation, etc., that constantly pass and repass, and that constitute our inner life."
– William James
"The unexamined life is not worth living."
– Socrates

Stoic Quotes About Silence

One of the beautiful and wonderful consequences of staying quiet is the fact that you get to experience the many benefits of silence. Whether you are remaining quiet at a crowded party or alone in your room, there is so much that can be gained from it.

seneca the younger image and quote about silence

“Silence is a lesson learned through life’s many sufferings.”

– Seneca the Younger

"The best answer to anger is silence."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Nothing has changed the nature of man so much as the loss of silence."

– Max Picard

"True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment."

William Penn

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

– Abraham Lincoln

"Nothing is more useful than silence."
– Menander
"Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent."
– Dalai Lama
"The inspiration you seek is already within you. Be silent and listen."
– Rumi
"Let us be silent — so we may hear the whisper of the gods."
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
"He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words."
– Elbert Hubbard
"Silence is a true friend who never betrays."
– Confucius

Quotes About Speaking Deliberately

The reality is that most people you encounter throughout the day talk without thinking. We've all been guilty of this to differing extents, and it's easy to simply react to what's happening all the time without ever giving it much thought.

What if you only said things that you really meant, though? What if, when you spoke, you were saying something that you believed to be true and that you felt was worth contributing to the conversation?

This can be a complete game changer. When you practice being quiet, you start to realize how often you are compelled to say things that you don't really mean. You see that you have the urge to say things just so others will think you're smart, funny, cool, interesting, etc.

If we take the advice of Epictetus, we should only talk "if occasion calls" us, and when we do talk, we should "say only what is necessary and in a few words." There is so much clutter in the world these days, and you'll find that simplifying your life by only speaking when you feel it is necessary will help produce more peace in your mind.

epictetus image and quote about speaking

“Be silent as to services you have rendered, but speak of favors you have received.”

– Epictetus

“Be silent for the most part, or, if you speak, say only what is necessary and in a few words. Talk, but rarely, if occasion calls you, but do not talk of ordinary things – of gladiators or horses races or athletes or of meats or drinks – these are topics that arise everywhere – but above all do not talk about men in blame or compliment or comparison. If you can, turn the conversation of your company by your talk to some fitting subject; but if you should chance to be isolated among strangers, be silent.”

– Epictetus

"Speak only if it improves upon the silence."

– Mahatma Gandhi

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

– Ernest Hemingway

"Always speak the truth, think before you speak, and write it down afterwards."

– Lewis Carroll

"I often regret that I have spoken; never that I have been silent."

– Pubilius Syrus

"Be silent in a group of people. See what they reveal to you."

– Yoko Ono

"It is better wither to be silent, or to say things of more value than silence. Sooner throw a pearl at hazard than an idle or useless word; and do not say a little in many words, but a great deal in a few."

– Pythagoras

"Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact."

– George Eliot

Stoic Quotes About Opinions

These days, it seems like everyone has an opinion about everything. On top of that, holding specific opinions is often necessary in order to be welcomed into certain social groups. When you practice staying quiet, you are stepping out of this game in a way that can feel practically scary. It's all too common for people to walk around parroting ideas they've heard elsewhere because they think it makes them seem cool or smart rather than communicating truths they have carefully contemplated.

For this reason, it's worth checking in with Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and other great minds about the nature of opinions. If you really do practice silence in your day-to-day life, you might just find that you view the opinions of others and your own opinions in a new light.

"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Not things, but opinions about things, trouble men."

– Epictetus

"Remember that all things are only opinion and that it is in your power to think as you please."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Be careful whom you associate with. It is human to imitate the habits of those with whom we interact. We inadvertently adopt their interests, their opinions, their values, and their habit of interpreting events."

– Epictetus

"Treat with utmost respect your power of forming opinions, for this power alone guards you against making assumptions that are contrary to nature and judgments that overthrow the rule of reason."

– Marcus Aurelius

"When you have decided that a thing ought to be done and are doing it, never avoid bein seen doing it, though many shall form an unfavorable opinion about it. For if it is not right to do it, avoid doing the thing; but if it is right, why are you afraid of those who shall find fault wrongly?"

– Epictetus

"You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can't control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone."

– Marcus Aurelius

"It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own."

– Marcus Aurelius

"The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject."

– Marcus Aurelius

"How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice."

– Steve Jobs

Quotes About Meditation

When we think about meditation, the first thing that comes to mind is usually Buddhist meditation. While the Stoics obviously didn't partake in this particular flavor of meditation, they are well known for their contemplative practices, including meditating on death and negative visualization.

Here are just a few quotes about meditation to help display the benefits of staying quiet as a life practice.

"He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Meditation is one of the ways in which the spiritual man keeps himself awake."

– Thomas Merton

Stoic Quotes About Speaking the Truth

One of the things that's so remarkable about practicing being quiet is that we realize how much of what we say isn't really what we believe to be true. We have all kinds of other motivations for saying what we say, and we are prone to simply repeat the ideas and words of others because we think it makes us sound good.

In the following quotes, Marcus Aurelius reminds us that there is no virtue in saying things that aren't true, while Epictetus urges us to understand what we are talking about before we start to do so.

"If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it."

– Marcus Aurelius

"First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak."

– Epictetus

"Truth never perishes."

– Seneca the Younger

"I cannot comprehend how any man can want anything but the truth."

– Marcus Aurelius

"It is better by assenting to truth to conquer opinion, than by assenting to opinion to be conquered by truth."

– Epictetus

"Time discovers truth."

– Seneca the Younger

“Remind yourself that your task is to be a good human being; remind yourself what nature demands of people. Then do it, without hesitation, and speak the truth as you see it. But with kindness. With humility. Without hypocrisy.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one ever was truly harmed. Harmed is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Things are often spoke and seldom meant."

– William Shakespeare

"If you let a person talk long enough you'll hear their true intentions. Listen twice, speak once."

– Tupac Shakur

"Three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth."

– Confucius

"The ability to ask questions is the greatest resource in learning the truth."

– Carl Jung

"Truth never penetrates an unwilling mind."

– Jorge Luis Borges

Stoic Quotes About Solitude

Intricately connected with staying quiet is being alone. Even if you are in a crowded bus terminal, being silent can mean that you are all on your own in the world. There are many benefits to solitude, but the Stoics weren't hermits, either.

They apply the Stoic virtue of temperance to this idea rather than arguing that one should head off to the mountains to meditate alone for the rest of their life. In our first Seneca quote, we see that he argues for a balance between spending time alone and spending time with others.

"Solitude and company may be allowed to take their turns: the one creates in us the love of mankind, the other that of ourselves; solitude relieves us when we are sick of company, and conversation when we are weary of being alone, so that the one cures the other. There is no man so miserable as he that is at a loss how to use his time."

– Seneca the Younger

"The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"It is far better to be alone, than to be in bad company.”

– George Washington

“Solitude is independence.”

– Herman Hesse

"I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least - and it is commonly more than that - sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements."

– Henry David Thoreau

Touching base with quotes from the ancient Stoics and other great minds throughout the day can be a great way to help you stay on the Stoic path. Be sure to check out our Stoic Quotes blog for more inspiring and thought-provoking quotes.

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Written by: Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always maintained a deep interest in the question of how best to live one’s life. She hopes to help others understand how they can apply Stoicism in their day-to-day lives in order to become the person they want to be, embrace the present moment, pursue their purposes, and rid themselves of unnecessary anxiety.

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