Use speech moderately.

a.k.a. quiet

Complementary virtues

Contrasting vices

  • chatterbox
  • gossip

Virtues possibly in tension

How to acquire or strengthen it


Notes and links

Mentioned elsewhere

  • One of Ben Franklin’s virtues: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”

Inspirational quotes

  • “When Ssŭ-ma Niu asked for a definition of virtue, the Master said: ‘The man of virtue is chary of speech.’ ‘He is chary of speech! Is this the meaning of virtue?’ demanded Niu. ‘When the doing of it is difficult,’ responded Confucius, ‘can one be other than chary of talking about it?’” (Analects of Confucius, XII.III)
  • “Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.” —George Eliot (Impressions of Theophrastus Such)
  • “A prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions.” —George Eliot (Middlemarch)
  • “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.” (Proverbs 26:20)
  • “If thou thinkest twice before thou speakest once, thou wilt speak twice the better for it. Better say nothing, than not to the purpose. And to speak pertinently, consider both what is fit, and when it is fit, to speak.” —William Penn
  • “Return no answer to anger, unless with much meekness, which often turns it away: but rarely make replies, less rejoinders; for that adds fuel to the fire. It is a wrong time to vindicate yourselves, the true ear being then never open to hear it. Men are not themselves, and know not well what spirits they are of; silence to passion, prejudice, and mockery, is the best answer, and often conquers what resistance inflames.” —William Penn
  • “If you have nothing to say let me have your silence, for that is good and fertile. Silence is the ambrosial night in the intercourse of men in which their sincerity is recruited and takes deeper root. — There are such vices as frivolity, garrulity, and verbosity, not to mention profanity, growing out of the abuse of speech which does not belong wholly to antiquity, and none have imparted a more cheerless aspect to society.” —Thoreau
  • “A stupid person should keep silent. But if he knew this he would not be a stupid person.” —Muslish-ud-Din Saadi
  • “Don’t indulge in unnecessary chatter. Avoid gossiping about others. Speak with precision and speak about what really matters. If you want to influence your friends, do it by your example. Do not laugh too loud or too often. If possible, avoid taking oaths… Don’t defend yourself if someone speaks ill of you… In conversations, avoid talking at length about yourself. Just because you enjoy your exploits does not mean that others will. They will derive pleasure from hearing about them, not about you. Avoid trying to be funny. Avoid using profanities.” —Epictetus, Enchiridion
  • “I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching. How far off, how cool, how chaste the persons look, begirt each one with a precinct or sanctuary! So let us always sit.” —Emerson
  • “Better to trip with the feet than with the tongue” —Zeno