Quotes about Conversation / Connection / Silence

“Many of the things we all struggle with in love and work can be helped by conversation. Without conversation, studies show that we are less empathic, less connected, less creative and fulfilled. We are diminished, in retreat.” – from Reclaiming Conversation – The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle. Great interview with her on how “smart” phones hurt our face-to-face relationships.  

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.” – Neil Postman

“Only connect. This is how we make meaning. This is how we learn to think as Nature thinks.” – Gregory Bateson, anthropologist

“It reminded me of talking, how what is said is never quite what was thought, and what is heard is never quite what was said. It wasn’t much in the way of comfort, but everything has a little failure in it, and we still make do somehow.” – in The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers

Alexander McCall Smith has the character Angus Lordie say, in Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers, “He [psychiatrist Dr. Macgregor] told me that the solution to so many problems is to talk about them. If you talk freely about a problem, then you take away its power to distress you.”

“A politician is required to listen to humbug, talk humbug, condone humbug. The most we can hope for is that we don’t actually believe it.” – Character in P.D. James’ A Taste for Death

An Ann Landers "Gem of the Day": 

  • People of high intelligence talk about ideas. 
  • People of average intelligence talk about things.
  • People with no intelligence talk about other people.
  • Where are you in the line-up?

“She had imagined she would have nice long conversations with Peter after they were married, but it had turned out that marriage in the circles in New York in which they traveled consisted of men who pontificated publicly, and the women who let their faces go still while they did so. Maybe that was true everywhere. Between times, in their own living rooms, the men seemed to be resting for the next round of pontificating and so saved their strength by staying silent.” – from Still Life with Bread Crumbs, by Anna Quindlen

“The cultivation of a stance of invulnerability robs men of a wisdom known to most women in this culture – that people actually connect better when they expose their weakness. Linguist Deborah Tannen, analyzing women’s ‘rapport talk’ versus men’s ‘report talk,’ found that a vital component of conversation between women was what she called ‘trouble talk’ – inviting the listener in by opening up one’s own points of vulnerability. Finally, to the degree to which a man learns to ‘be strong’ and to devalue weakness, his compassion toward frailty not just in himself but also in those around him may be limited or condescending. In this and many other ways, the loss of expressivity and the loss of vulnerability inevitably lead to diminished connection with others.” – from I Don’t Want to Talk About It – Overcoming The Secret Legacy of Male Depression, by Terrence Real

“The cure for states is feelings. As I discovered that day in the shower, unlike states, which tend to congeal, feelings will run their own course in due time. Despite the often expressed male fear that if one were to let oneself cry, one would never stop, tears, in fact, eventually taper off if one lets them. Feelings are not endless, but our numbing attempts to avoid them can last a lifetime.” – Terrence Real in I Don’t Want to Talk About It – Overcoming The Secret Legacy of Male Depression

“Back on the rez, a grandfather was talking to his grandson about his feelings after the attacks [9/11]. He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.” The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” The grandfather answered, “The one that I feed.”

“You don’t use technology alone to clean up the mess technology created. We are talking about new ways of perceiving relationships among human beings – a troublesome species – and the earth. Those ways are already there in Indian teachings.” – Alfonso Ortiz

“But people desire fair government. You say that constantly.” “They want to believe in heroes, also. And villains. Especially when frightened. It’s less taxing than the truth.” – conversation between Trotsky & book’s main character, in The Lacuna, a fascinating novel by Barbara Kingsolver

“Our best hope for going forward is learning to let go, and part of that is letting go of anger and delusion. Much of the current finger-pointing is fundamentally conservative as it seeks to maintain an impossible status quo, even if it waves a radical banner. But the big conversations we need to have are with each other. And for that we’re more in need of wounded healers (grateful, uncertain, compassionate, complicit) than raging prophets.” – David Korowicz

“People with self-respect have a kind of moral nerve. The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self-respect springs.” – Joan Dideon (quoted in Failure to Communicate – How Conversations Go Wrong & What You Can Do to Right Them, by Holly Weeks)

“If we continue to refuse to deal with things in an orderly and rational way, we will head into some sort of major catastrophe, sooner or later,” he said. “If we are lucky it will be big enough to wake us up worldwide but not big enough to wipe us out. That is the best we can hope for. We must transcend our evolutionary history. We’re Ice Age hunters with a shave and a suit. We are not good long-term thinkers. We would much rather gorge ourselves on dead mammoths by driving a herd over a cliff than figure out how to conserve the herd so it can feed us and our children forever. That is the transition our civilization has to make. And we’re not doing that.” – Ronald Wright in conversation with Chris Hedges in an article called ‘The Myth of Human Progress’

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury; and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasion, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.” – William Henry Channing

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars...” – Jack Kerouac

“A woman is an important somebody and sometimes you win the triple crown: good food, good sex, and good talk. Most men settle for any one, happy as a clam if they get two. But listen, let me tell you something. A good man is a good thing, but there is nothing in the world better than a good, good woman. She can be your mother, your wife, your girlfriend, your sister, or somebody you work next to. Don’t matter. You find one, stay there. You see a scary one, make tracks.” – grandfather character Sandler Gibbons speaking to his grandson Romen, from the novel Love, by Toni Morrison

“If a thing is never spoken between people who know each other well, and each knows the thing well, maybe it’s not a secret. …. It’s a powerful thing, that ability to tell the truth when the truth is upon you, but it has another power entirely when you don’t tell it.” – Stephen Jenkinson in Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

“If you can’t say something, you can’t see it either.” – Stephen Jenkinson in Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

“I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strangely, I am ungrateful to these teachers.” – Kahlil Gibran

“I do not want to talk about what you understand about this world. I want to know what you will do about it. I do not want to know what you hope. I want to know what you will work for. I do not want your sympathy for the needs of humanity. I want your muscle.” – Robert Fulghum

Talk – Action = Zero ……… ad in Jan/Feb. 2009 ‘Watershed Sentinel’ magazine

“It’s one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another’s locks. But until we start to talk, we don’t know it.” – Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s ‘Bookworm’ radio show

“Words bring us together, and silence separates us, leaves us bereft of the help or solidarity or just communion that speech can solicit or elicit. Some species of trees spread root systems underground that interconnect the individual trunks and weave the individual trees into a more stable whole that can’t so easily be blown down in the wind. Stories and conversation are like those roots. For a century, the human response to stress and danger has been defined as “fight or flight.” A 2000 UCLA study by several psychologists noted that this research was based largely on studies of male rats and male human beings. But studying women led them to a third, often deployed option: gather for solidarity, support, advice. They noted that “behaviorally, females’ responses are more marked by a pattern of ‘tend-and-befriend.’ Tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process.” Much of this is done through speech, through telling of one’s plight, through being heard, through hearing compassion and understanding in the response of the people you tend to, whom you befriend. Not only women do this, but perhaps women do this more routinely. It’s how I cope, now that I have one.” – Rebecca Solnit in The Mother of All Questions

 

Silence

“War is what happens when language fails.” – Margaret Atwood (in The Robber Bride)

“It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal — carries the cross of the redeemer — not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.” – Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces [quoted by Guy McPherson here]

“What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein (quoted in Voltaire’s Bastards, by John Ralston Saul)

“Your silence will not protect you.” – Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

“A voice is a human gift. It should be cherished & used. Powerlessness & silence go together.” – Margaret Atwood

“When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What every body echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new...” ~ Henry David Thoreau, in Walden

“Silence is the strength of our interior life…If we fill our lives with silence, then we will live in hope.” ~ Thomas Merton

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Often the voice of conscience whispers / Often we silence it / Always we have to pay.” – Cletus Nelson Nwadike, Nigerian poet, Left Curve (# 28) – Utne Reader, May/June 2005

“The demands – heard from pole to pole, for freedom, justice, security, equality, education, a safe environment, and a better life for the world’s children – are all grounded in, and reach downward to, this elemental human need: silence, solitude, and the right to rule one’s own thoughts: the sanity of the inner life.” – Noel Peattie, poet/librarian, Inner Life (quoted in Utne Sept/Oct 2005)

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“…the goal of all spiritual life is to get your ego out of the way – outwit the sucker; dissolve it; shoot it; kill it. Silence the incessant planning, organizing, running, manipulating, possessing, and processing”… “because these activities preclude awareness of the Divine.” – Rabbi Lawrence Kushner in his book I’m God, You’re Not (reviewed in Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011 issue, their 25th anniversary issue)

“I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strangely, I am ungrateful to these teachers.” – Kahlil Gibran

“Words bring us together, and silence separates us, leaves us bereft of the help or solidarity or just communion that speech can solicit or elicit. Some species of trees spread root systems underground that interconnect the individual trunks and weave the individual trees into a more stable whole that can’t so easily be blown down in the wind. Stories and conversation are like those roots. For a century, the human response to stress and danger has been defined as “fight or flight.” A 2000 UCLA study by several psychologists noted that this research was based largely on studies of male rats and male human beings. But studying women led them to a third, often deployed option: gather for solidarity, support, advice. They noted that “behaviorally, females’ responses are more marked by a pattern of ‘tend-and-befriend.’ Tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process.” Much of this is done through speech, through telling of one’s plight, through being heard, through hearing compassion and understanding in the response of the people you tend to, whom you befriend. Not only women do this, but perhaps women do this more routinely. It’s how I cope, now that I have one.” – Rebecca Solnit in The Mother of All Questions

“If a thing is never spoken between people who know each other well, and each knows the thing well, maybe it’s not a secret. …. It’s a powerful thing, that ability to tell the truth when the truth is upon you, but it has another power entirely when you don’t tell it.” – Stephen Jenkinson in Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

“If you can’t say something, you can’t see it either.” – Stephen Jenkinson in Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.” – Pastor Martin Niemoeller (1892-1964), a Nazi victim who was imprisoned at Sachsenhausen & Dachau