Shut Up

Stop talking for a second. There’s already enough words on this planet. Everyone scaring everyone else. Everyone telling each other what they should do. How they can live a better life, what stocks should they should buy, how they can deal with their pain and suffering. What’s the meaning of this, or the thing wrong with that.

Just stop talking.

10 Possible Reasons Why You are Talking Right Now

-          Justifying yourself. They were wrong! How can she do this to me? How can he say that? They have to listen to my argument! I have every right to…

-          “That happened to me also!” You ever have a friend that’s like that? You say, “I’m sick from brain cancer and… “ and then they interrupt and say, “my friend’s cousin’s dad had that when I was growing up. He always used to give us lollipops and…” And then they never get back to asking you how you are dealing with your brain cancer.

-          Killing time. You’re on a date. It’s dinner. You never wanted to be one of “those” people. The old couple in the diner. They’d sit there looking at their food. So quiet. You never wanted to be a couple like that. 50 years later, no words left to say to each other. The love must be gone, you think. So we talk to fill up the time, prove our love, prove that there’s still something worth saying.

-          Self-importance.  I have something to say! Damnit! And everyone wants to hear about it.

-          So others can stop talking. If I’m talking it means I don’t have to listen to you. It’s my turn!

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-          Sharing. “Ugh, my car broke and I have brain cancer and my wife left me and…” You call it sharing but you just want pity from others.

-          Fear.  I’m at a party and if I don’t talk then everyone will think I’m stupid.

-          Loneliness. I haven’t talked to anyone all day. I feel pain from that. I want to call someone and talk to them just to assuage this pain.

-          Showing off.   I want people to know about all these good things happening to me so that they maybe will think I’m better than they are. Or at least they will think I’m better than I think of myself.

-          Avoid thinking. If I can talk about my ideas, I don’t have to think about them first and whether or not they are good ideas. I can try to get affirmation from others first.

Of course there are good reasons to talk. But not as many as you think. I saw one piece of advice: put a quarter in your mouth. Now, in order to talk, you have to move the quarter over to your cheek. It gives you an extra second to think before talking. Although I'd mess up and accidentally choke on the quarter.

Or try this. Spend two hours where you don’t talk. Schedule it. That’s hard. Now try three. Now try an entire day. Or a weekend if you can.

The value of speech is a gift. We create entire worlds with words. But silence can sometimes create a better world. Ok, I've said too much.

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  • It does count. Each post has to provide value. Else it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

  • Sooz

    can I, at  least, whisper?

  • Dan

    Confirmation seekers and perception controllers are the worst (Justifying yourself – for NPDs, seeking image reflection ). Remember, other people don’t think like you do. You should be shocked if they do, not if they don’t. Listen. Think. Speak in a way that adds to the conversation. Allow people to draw their own conclusions. And stop telling people what you are going to do.

  • Anonymous

    ( )

  • :)

  • Ceengel

    I’d like to comment … but I won’t … starting … now

  • Quite so. Lovely summary of chatter. Did you ever read Sartre? Chatter is to co-opt the gaze of the Other, so that one need not suffer self-awareness. 

  • Kevin Faul

    I meditate every night before I sleep. It’s been 2 years and have only missed a few nights. I don’t talk as much, I’ve become a better listener, though I could work on that more.

    I read ‘Egonomics’ by David Marcum and Steven Smith. Tt’s really a story of the value and cost of ego in business but has some valuable specific suggestions and overall not talking too much is the result: 

    Since I’ve been quieter, I’ve noticed that people listen more and are more willing to share authentic and deeper feelings and thoughts. I’ve also just noticed more. Perhaps it’s because we become relaxed and comfortable when we aren’t too busy misunderstanding or overanalyzing.

    There’s also this great story I read the other day: (via: extragoodshit via:, so thanks for that)

    If language shapes perception, perhaps being quiet will make us see the opportunities that have always been right under our noses.

  • People tell me everything.  I respond to let them know I heard them. Sometimes I speak attempting to make people laugh. I talk to my dogs, and I am pretty sure they don’t understand more than 10 English words. 

    As for silence, used correctly it’s awesome, but I think it can be very rude in some situations.

    I’ll “shut-up” now…..not quite yet….I have to tell you one more thing – I know people who think the term “shut-up” is as crass as swearing.

    I am zipping it now.  :)

    • mickeyray

      Maybe we should try to go a whole day using only the words your dogs understand….

      • cookie, ice, batman, drop, park, carride, loveu, up, sit, no


        • mickeyray

          “Hungry?” …
          I dogsat for a friend whose overweight minpin (Gaby, the sausage) would run away if you said “come here”. I finally learned her native tongue and simply substituted “Gaby,are you hungry?” and she would jump into my arms.

          • Yes, add “hungry” to the vocab….I forgot that one…oh and “treat”

          • mickeyray

            My neighbor’s chocolate lab likes “chew-chew” & “stick”…

          • mickeyray

            Dumb question –
            What’s batman?

          • It’s not a dumb question, unless you already knew the answer.  It’s one of my dog’s names :)

            I made a tumblr for my children while they are away at school, they miss the animals more than any people.


          • Steven L Goff

            My dog has not told me his name yet. I’m waitin’

          • mickeyray

            …beautiful dogs.

          • It’s not a dumb question, unless you already knew the answer.  It’s one of my dog’s names :)

            I made a tumblr for my children while they are away at school, they miss the animals more than any people.


        • mickeyray

          I’m going to try using only your dogwords with my boss tomorrow … :)

  • I try to speak in the present tense.I also try to speak using I,first person rather than you or we taking personal responsibility for my thoughts and opinions.I edit my speech before I speak as I realize not every thought needs expression.Some of this I learned though Gestalt Therapy instruction which I find valuable.I have always been considered a good listener.It seems the older I get the less I say.

  • Btw, I LOVE comments. So “shutting up” never applies here :)

  • The funny part about this post is that the only people who will listen to its advice are people who already don’t talk very much. Chatty people don’t realize what they are saying is pointless, that’s why they are chatty.

    James: In my experience, kids who are considered “nerds” (especially the boys) talk a LOT about things people don’t care about. Was that your experience when you were younger?

    • I was an uber-nerd who barely spoke to anyone until I turned 17. By the time I came out of my space ship to talk, all my friends were other nerdy kids who thought I was fascinating because I made them look normal in comparison.

  • Every day is a struggle. Not surprisingly, describing the past proves difficult.  In 2009 I begin this quest and find it freeing.  Try to re-craft a speech you are familiar with and watch the shifts in responsibility (its your fault), tone, clarity, and reception in your audience.  Something is captivating about it, yet simultaneously allusive. Try ordering at a restaurant. Try inviting someone to coffee at a date in the future.

  • This is me not commenting.

  • Marco Bresba

    Love this list. I have a friend who describes your  “That happened to me also!” as “Bringing it Home” (as in it’s always about them).  Wait…did I just bring it home?

  • wsc

    active passivity is a skill

  • Marco Bresba

    Yep.  Most non fiction books today should be long New Yorker articles.  In fact, quite a number started that way and in my experience, the article usually delivers 90% of the goods with 10% of the words.

  • James I think you would really like the album Shut Up, Dude by Das Racist.

    A brilliant exposition of modernity

  • Anonymous

    Next time I see you on TV I’m going to run through your list. 

  • mickeyray

    I once read about a guy who took a vow of silence for religious reasons.  He carried small cards with him to hand out when needed that explained that he had taken a vow of silence and wasn’t just being rude.

  • This is a great idea.

  • Anonymous

    Favourite quote (apologies, can’t remember source) is an exchange between a couple;
    Q: “Honey, what are you thinking about?”
    A: “If I wanted you to know what I’m thinking, I’d be talking to you!”

  • John Ware

    One of my favorite TAWKING heads on CNBC @ 2:30am (PDT) is Jimmy A! Ironic or coincidental… discuss amongst yourselves.

  • Steven L Goff

    “Everyone telling each other what they should do. How they can live a better life”
    Dude…you’re the biggest hypocrite in 20 words or less I’ve ever seen….with that sentence above!

  • Have you ever heard true silence? It’s amazing, like a vacuum. My sister and I were standing by one of the Cascade lakes, and snow had just begun to fall. If we didn’t move there was silence, a complete lack of sound. I keep the sound of silence with me always, and use it to calm me if I’m feeling stressed. I find I can tap into the silence even if there is noise around. Remembering the silence helps ground me in the present, which seems a funny concept, but it works.

  • Steven L Goff

    One of the absolute worst {{{temporary}} ill side effects of exponential technology advancements is how it has de socialized us as a species. People need more real life face to face stimulating debate instead of say texting or email or blog exchanges/comments. I hate friggin texting. Call me on phone if you have something to say. If you have time to hit little keys on your smart phone you have time to talk. I wont ever buy a smart phone. Who has time for that crap while your working like a dog during day. Sir Elton John one time announced an idea to turn off the Internet for 5 years as a social experiment. They laughed at him. He aint so crazy!

    “It was 1989 my thoughts were short my hair was long
    Caught somewhere between a boy and man
    She was seventeen and she was far from in-between

    “Splashing through the sand bar
    Talking by the campfire
    It’s the simple things in life like when and where
    We didn’t have no Internet
    But man I never will forget
    The way the moonlight shined upon her hair

    While we were trying different things
    And we were smoking funny things
    Making love out by the lake to our favorite song
    Sipping whiskey out the bottle not thinking ’bout tomorrow”

  • Richterific

    I think it’s funny that you allow comments on this post.

    • Steven L Goff

      I think it is even funnier and witty that you pointed tat out! niceeeeee

      • TripleB

        He was killing time.

  • Steven L Goff

    “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a FOOL than to open it and remove all doubt.”

    • Duderkins


  • doug graves

    Try and go for as long as you can without talking — unless somebody asks you a question or for your opinion.  It’s an exercise I go through every once in a while; usually after someone has walked away from me while I was in the middle of a sentence.  The people around you will begin to ask you what’s wrong.  Pure irony.

  • John Roth

    As my mother used to say, “God gave us two ears and one mouth. Do the math”.

  • Boo

    Some of the most effective periods of personal growth in my life have been when I’ve been at meditation sessions where one of the rules you need to agree to for the session is “Don’t Lie” and therefore, shut up. That includes hand-signals. Amazing what happens in just 10 short days of not talking.

  • @chrissyalmeida

    might be your best one yet, James. 

  • @chrissyalmeida

    might be your best one yet, James. 

  • bluenextbear.

    jam – you always talk about turning it off, and this shutting up thing to me, implies that you put yourself in the way of the noise – i wonder if you have some sadistic, artistic attraction to the things that “get your goat” – discuss :)

  • Kadfast

    okay, I’ll shut up now.

  • *this post should have no comments…correct?

    • No, all comments in this post under the “cone of silence”.

      • Duderkins

        what movie was that from?

  • Mayuresh Gaikwad

    I think talking too much is cultural.

    A Chinese Proverb: The duck that makes the most noise gets shot first
    An Indian (may also be true in other cultures) Proverb: Its better to be quiet and let people think you are stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubts about your stupidity
    An American Proverb: The squeaky wheel gets the grease / the crying child gets the milk

    One problem many Asian immigrants face in the US is that they are accused of being to shy / reserved / etc. and hence, not fit for the top jobs. This might be true even if 50% of what is spoken by an American (does not matter what ehtnicity s/he belongs to, 2nd gen. Asians included) is worthless small talk and almost usually falls in one of the 10 reasons you mentioned.

    So, shutting up may not always be the right thing to do, especially for people who have been brought up in a culture that asks them to shut up, but find themselves working in a culture where staying quiet is seen as a weakness

  • Jennifer Knight

    Which category would this one fall into: talking about the good things
    happening to you or ranting about random crap so you can avoid talking
    about your feelings for someone?

  • smithson

    Reading people’s comments, especially the ones that are like “oh james…” reminds me of bond

  • Jane Swanson

    You might find this TED talk interesting.

  • Guest

    My experience growing up as one who was fairly conservative with their speech, due to much of what you’ve observed I like to think, is it comes with negative social consequences. 

  • Guest

    My experience growing up as one who was fairly conservative with their speech, due to much of what you’ve observed I like to think, is it comes with negative social consequences. 

  • Mark

    There was a funny “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode this season in which one of the characters tries to maintain some kind of vow of silence, but of course, Larry — as only he can — breaks him down eventually into a stream of profanity and frustration.

  • Joshua Norris
  • Joshua Norris

    By the way, James, I’m a big fan.  

  • Jeff

    I often go without speaking more than an hour per month, as I work from home and my work is internet-based.  I would suggest that silence has its pros and cons just like having many and frequent conversations has pros and cons (mostly depending on the people involved, plus the mental focus and priorities of the participants).  I guess like in most things there should be a healthy balance; I find after years of speaking so little that I feel disconnected from humanity, and I sometimes need to talk out loud to myself to stay sane.

  • Adam

    The opposite of talking is not silence.  It’s listening. :)

  • Use plenty of one word answers.

  • Margaretsouth

    My sister teaches 8th grade language arts but she can’t speak because she has ALS.  So we designed our “Written Word Immersion” class, in which we write everything in Microsoft Word and project it onto the screen for them.  If a student has a question, they have to write it down. Not only does it make the teaching experience a dream, it makes the kids better writers.     

  • Ftyurt

    Same principal could apply to blogging eh James?

  • Bilal Ahmad

    keep writing forever

  • You know, for a while I had a job as an artists’ model. Later when I sat in on a Zaa Zen class some of the senior people marvelled, that that must have been good practice in being still — mentally. I guess it was.

  • DKNY

    Great writing!!!! Funny as hell

  • Jlwillerson

    Musics original alternative….

  • My first job when I was 16, I worked on-air at a commercial radio station. That same year I got in an accident that almost killed me. As a result, I lost my voice completely for 6 months and had to write everything down…thus talking less. It made me a better person.

  • QuietJim


  • Debashis Dalai

    Greetings James,
    I came across your blog in Facebook 3 days ago and since then I am hooked up. I talk a lot and Loneliness is my reason I think. But I am gonna be shut up now. It is the wisest thing to do I think. 
    Thanks a lot.

  • salimapirani

    love this james. i taught a class on mindful speech last week and sharing this post with my students. practicing mindfulness can help to refine our speech: when we notice what is truly going on inside when we are listening, and when we are speaking – we find that half of the time we are doing a lot of the stuff you mentioned above — and how unnecessary it is. thanks for this. now i’ll shut up ha!!

  • You know what? If we had all appreciated what James is saying in this post there would be 0 comments. The proof of his argument is on the rest of the page. And no, we’re not off the hook because we wrote our comments.

  • Caterina Efé

    I’m guilty of some of these points, but not saying which one ??