Good communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship with another person, whether that relationship be social, romantic, or professional. It is our highly developed communication skills that make human beings separate from the rest of the animal kingdom. No other creature can talk about the weather, muse on their own death, or hold a discourse on the works of Plato.

And yet, the overabundance of communication opportunities presented to us by the information age is recognized by many as a bad thing, leading to more noise than signal. Thus, it is important to disconnect and to end the flow of communication for periods of time, to listen to the self and, sometimes, to listen to nothing at all.

Indeed, the amount of information provided by social media and the Internet is not only easy to get lost in, it often contains information that we’re better off not even knowing. In a world dominated by rapid-fire hot takes, it is important to once in a while remember that not everything that happens requires our opinion or our commentary.

But don’t take our word for it. Read these quotes by some of the greatest minds of human history and see what they have to say about when to communicate — and when to not.

Quotes About Communication in Our Relationships

“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”

Stephen Hawking


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“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


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“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.”

William Hazlitt

“Well, then, what can I say; does what goes on inside show on the outside? Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney and then go on their way.”

Vincent Van Gogh


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

Ernest Hemingway


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“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Our hearts are not stones. A stone may disintegrate in time and lose its outward form. But hearts never disintegrate. They have no outward form, and whether good or evil, we can always communicate them to one another.”

Haruki Murakami, After the Quake


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“Speech is for the convenience of those who are hard of hearing; but there are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout.”

Henry David Thoreau


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“It takes a great man to be a good listener.”

Calvin Coolidge

Quotes About Over-Connectedness


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“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


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“I send notes. I’m not a chambermaid whom you can ring at every moment. Today, you know, most people act like they work at a switchboard in a hotel.”

Karl Lagerfeld


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“Electronic masturbation.”

Karl Lagerfeld, speaking about selfies


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“Now, 75 years, in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books.”

Harper Lee


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“Distracted from distraction by distraction.”

T.S. Eliot

“It amazes me that we are all on Twitter and Facebook. By “we” I mean adults. We’re adults, right? But emotionally we’re a culture of seven-year-olds. Have you ever had that moment when are you updating your status and you realize that every status update is just a variation on a single request: ‘Would someone please acknowledge me?'”

Marc Maron, Attempting Normal