The Wisdom and Art of Listening Silently

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

~ Epictetus

Learn the Art of listening towards self improvement

How observant the sagacious Epictetus must have been to come up with that quote, no matter how obvious the fact that human beings physiologically have a couple of ears and a singular mouth.

I am more interested in the hidden depth behind the stoic’s quote in terms of the wisdom and lesson that can be learned towards self-improvement.

We must dive headfirst into the ocean of silence and go deep down to discover the art of listening – something which most of us are ignorant of because of the need to express ourselves vocally to people about what we think we know.

Before entering into any conversation, we must learn to rest the tongue, clear the mind and open the ears so to absorb other people’s thoughts, and without prejudice.  You may learn a great deal more rather than if you were doing all the talking, as intimated by the following,

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”

~ Doug Larson

Communication is a two-way relationship, in which two or more people engage each other by sharing and respecting each other’s mind.  How does one get to know another completely?  Well, why don’t you listen and find out!  You may enhance relationships by listening to people and not just listening to yourself.

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

Patience is a virtue when it comes to listening and can save you personal strife if adhered to.  Not only can your mouth get you into trouble (something which has happened to me more than once), but it will also display your ignorance and short-comings for all to see.

Despite you thinking that you are an expert in the matter being discussed, it would be better to hold to silence so that you can survey the conversation at hand from a distance, so that you can then gain a better understanding.  The aim is first to ascertain if you indeed have the knowledge to involve yourself or, if not, keep silent and learn.

“Speak your truth quietly & clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.”

~ Max Ehrmann

Regular reticence, of which I advise, calms the mind as tenderly as watching a serene lake being quietly disturbed by a gentle waterfall – what a soothing sight.  When we speak we drown our ears with noise and clutter the mind with fanciful images dressed up as soldiers ready to march onto the tongue in single file.

Instead we should choose to postpone the war of words whilst emptying our minds, and allow our ears to become sensitively attuned by playing the musically attentive sound of silence.  Why not listen to nature?  Hear the breeze dance through the trees; hear the sweet sound of the birds singing; hear the paddling feet of the ducks in a pool of water; listen to the liberating simplicity of silence.

“See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.”

~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

All this vacuum created can improve and expand our minds, not to mention sharpen our observational skills which will help greatly with self-learning.

Listening indeed is an art, and you must be careful with your masterpiece, as even the greatest painters can turn off their audience by painting too loudly.

So keep silent and use your ears once in a while and you will discover the true beauty of wisdom.

“Silence is a source of great strength.”

~ Lao Tzu


  1. Couldn’t agree more. Yesterday, I went on a looking and listening tour. Just being quiet and drinking in the sounds and sights of fall.

  2. Jason Cooper says:

    I have noticed that you’re a man with few words, hence your name ‘NothingProfound’ – and the little you do say has more impact when compared to someone who likes to talk as much as an audio book.

    I just wish people would entertain the wisdom of talking less and listening more – they would find that they will learn a whole lot more in life.

    If I have anything constructive to say I try to speak without superfluity, if not, then…

  3. Socrates says:

    What you say is oh, so true.

    Listening is one art that needs to be studied more often. I find it quite ironic that the individuals who talk so much are usually the ones who say so little…

  4. Jason Cooper says:

    Cheers Socrates!

    You would think there would be no need to study or to learn how to listen due to us having ears to begin with.

    I think Listening is more to do with the attentiveness of the mind rather than the ears themselves.

    So the aim should be to quieten the mind so that it can become ever more sensitive and conscious of all sounds and sights.