Silence and Noise: Finding Stillness in the Modern World

Conversation Guide

Interested in using this conversation guide? Click here to tell us about it!
We’re happy to help!

Our entire lives are a combination of silence and sound. We often associate silence with the absence of noise, but silence is far more complex (and interesting) than the mere absence of auditory noise. We can experience silence both internally and externally. Noise, in the modern world, also shows up in our external and internal surroundings. Paradoxically, we can even experience peace and quiet, in seemingly loud moments like a symphony, heavy metal concert, or high on a windy mountaintop. While sound can accompany experiences of deep silence, internal noise can fuel worry, negative self-talk, and an inability to focus. These days there’s a truly unprecedented volume of noise—or unwanted distraction—in our ears, on our screens, and in our heads. In a world of noise, how do we find silence and why might it be important for us to do so?

Background Information:

This conversation is inspired in part by themes found in Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz’s book Golden: The Power of Silence in a World of Noise.

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. 

Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

  • What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?

Round 2:

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..

  • How would you describe the noise in your day-to-day life? What types of noise cause you the most interference or distraction?
  • How does noise impact us collectively? At work? At home? As a society?
  • Describe a favorite moment or time in silence. What was going on? What impact did it have on you?
  • Are you intentional about seeking silence? Why or why not? What does it look like for you?
  • Do you think there is a cultural value for silence? Where do your ideas around silence come from?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
  • What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
  • How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!