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My life has been a search for quiet for as long as I can remember.

I think the fundamental problem with noisy people is not that they're inconsiderate, but that they don't have any train of thought to interrupt, and they thus don't realize the havoc they're wreaking.

When I was living in Providence, working on On Lisp, I told my loud but well-meaning neighbors that I was writing a hard computer book, and that made them be quiet. Ordinary people can understand that you need quiet if you're working on some specific, hard task, like doing math homework. What they don't grasp is that someone would want their mind to work that way all the time, as a matter of course.

I keep late hours in part because, once everyone else goes to bed -- not just housemates but my entire town -- everything becomes still and quiet, and in that stillness I'm finally able to think more deeply, more clearly, about anything.

You've probably already had your fill of argument for the day, but I think that assuming that noisy people don't have a train of thought to interrupt is a little bit uncharitable. (I'm assuming the best interpretation of what you said, which is that they don't have a train of thought while they're being noisy.) I've met enough people who can think and consider things while maintaining a non-stop chatter that now I think it's just another of those quirks of personality: I require solitude to think about things, they do not.

This reminds me of an anecdote from Feynman about what sorts of mental things he could and could not do while counting seconds, and how it was different for different people. His counting was internally verbal and he could do anything that didn't require him to speak or anything else that was internally verbal.

On the other hand, a mathematician he knew was able to do lots of mental things while counting that Feynman couldn't, and wasn't able to do other mental things while counting that Feynman could, because the other guy counted visually.


Feynman is great. After reading about this a few years ago, I spent a few minutes trying to teach myself how to count with other senses, like touch or taste.

I picked an ordering of foods and imagined the transition from one to the next.

Touch is easier, since the ordering is already there. Just look at your fingers and imagine a sensation in each finger as you count. Easiest is to actually move your fingers though.

Touch is also much faster than visual or audio. With Chisenbop, I can count at around 15Hz, which is faster than I can look at the things I am trying to count.

Related to this, I've discovered what I can and can't listen to depending on the task.

When I'm writing, I can't listen to music with lyrics or podcasts. That's not too surprising, since I'm obviously using the parts of my brain related to processing language for my work, so I can't process language in the background.

When I'm doing grunt-level programming or debugging, I can listen to music with words or podcasts.

But when I'm doing architecture-level program design, I can't listen to music with lyrics or podcasts. For me, this kind of thinking is too similar to writing.

I read Oliver Sachs Musicophilia: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Musicophilia-Tales-Music-Oliver-Sack...

In it he points out how some people with Alzheimers or other degenerative brain damage can use familiar music to co-ordinate a sort of 'flow' a rhythm of activity.

When I am coding it is like this. I can put on a familiar record that know back to front and then suddenly it is over and I haven't heard any of it but it has marshalled my flow for me.

Put on an unfamiliar playlist or a 'radio' style thing from last.fm (or the radio even) where I don't know what is going to be played next) and it trashes my flow.

So to get stuff out of Spotify I have to make and learn playlists (as it trashes the order of all the LP's which I have burnt into my head from years of listening to them on vinyl....)

Interesting. I can try that with Metallica's older stuff, as I have been listening to it for over 15 years.

I'm the same, I just have the same playlist on repeat for months, thanks for the link to the book!

Some nights, when I lay on my bed trying to sleep but my mind is still racing, I try to calm down by counting or something that requires concentration in order to forget everything else. I noticed how I cannot count without having another train of thought talking or replaying a song I was listening to the same day. It's like having two threads running in parallel.

Trying to count visually is almost impossible, I lose track before reaching twenty. As a friend of mine put this, “I can't count sheep to sleep because they are always cheating.”

Have you tried thinking about the process of breathing ?

Ask yourself, "how do I know I am breathing?": there is some physical sensation that tells you that you're breathing, whether it's a whistling noise in your nose, the feeling of air rushing past the tip of your nose or the back of your throat, the feeling of wanting to return to the neutral position that your ribs give you during a deep breath.

For a lot of people, just one of these sensations is the most dominant one. If you can pick one, just lie quietly and concentrate on it and notice it every time you take a breath.

This process is more about noticing sensation than doing any kind of cognition, so I find it very useful when trying to take a mid-day nap (I haven't had trouble sleeping at the end of the day since I had children, funny that).

stop reading if you're not a smoker...


"mind racing before sleep"? If you smoke, try not to smoke at least 1 hr before you go to bed.

Ha, I never tried to count visually, it's funny. I also tried to think about number names sequentially trying not to drift in their other representations.

I'm with pg here on the endless search for silence as well as your use of late nights to find it. I have sound-blocking ear muffs scattered all over the house and in two backpacks for when I'm studying on campus at Stanford, because at Stanford "quiet study area" seems to be an oxymoron. Studying, like everything at Stanford, is a social event.

One disturbing phenomenon I've discovered: When I use these ear muffs to block other people's noise, I gradually get more sensitive to their noise. My brain gets weaker at filtering out the distractions if I go too long without practice. I discovered that I had to force myself to NOT artificially block the noise for a few hours every few days to maintain an ability to block out the distraction in circumstances where I was UNABLE to artificially block the noise. Resistance to noisy distraction is a perceptual skill that can atrophy without practice.

I have to do any high-concentration work at night as well, and have likewise found that successfully finding some level of silence in life makes me more sensitive to noise...

In my case I've made a concerted effort to remove all aural advertising from my life -- this is rather easier nowadays, when it's trivial to watch videos and listen to music without ever consuming broadcast media.

But now when I do accidentally encounter normal TV/radio, it's amazingly grating and completely invades my head. I was in an airport in the US with TVs everywhere, and it was like trying to do work next to a fistfight. Commercial jingles pop into my head and stay there, when I'm unlucky enough to encounter them.

I think the problem is compounded by the fact that modern advertising is calculated to break through the normal deluge of attention-seeking noise that people are drenched in, so if you are not, in fact, already swimming in other noise, the sudden bursts are overwhelming.

    When I was living in Providence,    
An area specifically designed for work or study should be a quiet space, but the example given by PG is regarding his living quarters. I personally don't want to live in a library.

I feel the exact same way. I wear a pair of noise canceling headphones and listen to music so I can block out all of the noise produced by other people. What I found a few days ago, however, was that I had a very, very difficult time concentrating and focusing when I wasn't wearing them or listening to music, where as a year ago that problem was nonexistent. I feel like the only time I can truly concentrate and be at peace anymore is late at night, when everyone else is asleep.

noticed this 110% percent - I started wearing earplugs pumping whitenoise a few years back to help sleep - I need these things all the time now - I have whitenoise running probably 18 hours per day now (except when I'm driving).

I think the opposite is also true. I became able to sleep through nearly anything (nearly including, unfortunately, 4am fire alarms and, more fortunately, 4am wrong-numbers) in the dorms at college, where it was noisy nearly all the time.

I would imagine that exposing yourself to noise (on high volume?) 18 hours a day would cause permanent hearing damage.

18 is possibly the high end, but probably 6-8 per day, plus sleeptime, and it's never 'loud'. I've wondered about hearing loss, but I've done it for a few years now and have not noticed any loss (what did you say?) ;)

My office at work is a virtually silent team room. All of my coworkers are exceptionally quiet people. It drives me mad.

Most days I spend my entire productive workday in a coffee shop across campus, precisely because it is loud and busy. Only with the surrounding noise can I avoid being distracted by specific things. The environment is so noisy that it allows me to ignore to entirely.

My wife is the same way: she works best in a coffee shop, with background noise. My hypothesis is that people who are able to multitask (ie. not me) need a certain level of stimulation to absorb the attention that would otherwise crystallize into distractions.

For me, when I'm able to concentrate, the background noise is irrelevant. I simply do not hear it.

There's something to this, but there's also the fact that any given sound gets literally lost in the noise.

That's exactly what it is, for me at least. The slightest noise of something other than nature is enough to throw me completely, the best I can do living in a city is to work in an environment where the background noise has a masking effect. It's either no noise or a constant background drone loud enough to mask any single interrupting sound - anything in between is unworkable for me.

As much as I love the mountains and forests, I've come to realise that I like the idea of solitude a lot more than the reality of it. And so I find myself living in large cities, constantly seeking noise because it's the only way I can find peace.

When the ambient sound level gets too low, I get a strange feeling in my ear -- kinda like a hand or leg "falling asleep". It's really distracting.

White noise, and ambient "study" music is great -- it's like a null placeholder, I can focus and I remember hearing nothing instead of hearing silence.

My work place is the same. I really didn't like it in the beginning. But I have learned to love it. I have noticed that I am far more productive there than at my previous job where they had an open plan office shared by both developers and noisy sales people.

I have taken the quiet attitude home as well. I used to have the radio or TV on all day long when I was working on my computer. Now I turn everything off when I work at home.

I think noisy sales people would drive me crazy. If we leave the door open to the team room we can hear recruiting right outside. Very nice people, but I have even more trouble concentrating when they're on the phone all day.

Then again, that's focussed noise where I can easily pick out entire conversations. By contract, the coffee shop I'm in right now is full of a wild cacophony. So much noise that none of it forms a coherent picture. This is trivial to ignore.

In the end it probably comes down mostly to what you're willing to make work for you. I find a mostly silent room maddening enough that I'm unlikely to ever give it a try.

I remember that the Sun Microsystems drop in office in SF had a "quiet room" that the developers loved. No phones at the desks, and absolute quiet. But disagreements would break out when the spaces outside were all taken up and sales people needed a seat. Some just yakked. Others brought in cell phones and felt that as long as they used a hushed voice, they were honoring the silence. Other people felt that allowing a cell phone to ring and then taking the call outside the quiet room as you talked counted as quiet.

The office manager ruled with an iron fist, fortunately, and she really didn't care if someone didn't like her, so these folks got the boot. She saved that quiet room, as far as I'm concerned.

This is my preferred working style as well. Noise, as long as it is unrelated to what I am doing, doesn't bother me. I can work well in a library or a coffee shop (at least until someone recognizes me and comes up to say hello, which happens about once a week).

A crowded open plan office, with interesting and relevant conversations going on all around me, is detrimental to my productivity.

For the same reason, I wake up early (0200-0300 or so) because most tech people are likely to work late, so waking up early and doing stuff from 0400-1000 or so is functionally the same as staying up late.

My mother is a pretty deep thinker and she requires constant TV chatter simply because she has tinnitus and can't stand the sound of it. But I think she's an exception.

Have you introduced her to brown noise? I typically use it for blocking out background sounds when I'm tired of listening to music, but it might work well for tinnitus too.

There seem to be two very different definitions of brown noise.

Haven't heard of it before actually. Thanks!

I have tinnitus and needs background noise - but to be non interuptive it has to be background - a coffee bar, or the telly on low - what it can't require is any processing like music or something that is designed to be 'listened to'.

This feeling is disturbingly good. I remember my shift being offseted at work for I was always late, as a side effect I had to enjoy 1 hour alone at 5pm, the second people left the workplace, my brain expanded out of my suddenly relaxed self. As if I could use the walls as extended mind storage.

Carrying a lively conversation, possibly one with lots of laughter, actually involves paying a lot of attention: to the things people are saying, to their body language, to their feelings, to your own feelings, to the appropriateness of what you're saying, to the way that you're saying it, to thoughts that you have that you want to express but perhaps can't, and to the timing of things, particularly in the case of making jokes. It hopefully even involves paying attention to whether or not you're annoying people who aren't part of the conversation.

As someone who prefers absolute solitude for reading and writing, I can be very introverted, and I completely understand wanting things to be quiet. However, I think it's mistaken to assume all noisy people don't have any train of thought to interrupt. I think it's just as possible to be mindfully extroverted as it is to be mindlessly introverted. As for percentages and stuff, I'm at a loss; my bias is to assume mindlessness is more common than mindfulness regardless. I guess the difference is that mindless extroversion tends to be more obvious than mindless introversion.

I've come to view it as an aspect -- even if unconscious -- of competition.

The noisy folks tend to be a lot less effective (in particular, I mean those who chatter half the day away, and whose mistakes I was constantly fixing).

But... with their noise and disregard for my own concentration, they dragged down my effectiveness. (And my peace of mind and ultimately, health.)

One reason I now advocate -- strongly -- removing oneself from such environments as soon as possible.

I received a strong, sustained, and somewhat domineering message that I was the one who needed to adapt. And, being young and inexperienced and without much power, this caused both some significant self-doubt and great frustration.

I can't make up what I lost. But I can advise others to avoid similar loss.

> I think the fundamental problem with noisy people is (...) that they don't have any train of thought to interrupt

I'm not sure I understand what you're saying: are you saying that noisy people don't think (or are stupid)?

I'm a "quiet one" too, but I think noisy people are the opposite of "thinkless"; they appear to be afraid of their own mind and what it could tell them about the insignificance of the world in general and their life in particular (anyone's life).

What they want is distraction; they use noise as a lid over an even more tumultuous and noisy torrent of depressing thoughts.

Many people are addicted to stimuli in whatever form because they do not want to be left alone with their thoughts. Some just turn on the TV whenever they are alone, some have to socialize and can't stand being alone, others do drugs. Time alone in the nature or meditation is quite the opposite and something I would wish those stimuli seeker would experience more often.

> Time alone in the nature or meditation is quite the opposite and something I would wish those stimuli seeker would experience more often.

Why? That assumes that being alone with your own thoughts is somehow good for everyone. I've done it--it's not all it's cracked up to be, IMHO. I believe there's enough variation in the way people's brains are wired up that it's not really possible to say "this specific thing that works for me is also good for your own mood/well-being/thoughts".

I don't feel mentally stimulated by sitting around in nature or by meditating. It doesn't "clear my head" or make me look at my life in a new interesting perspective. It doesn't calm me in any meaningful way or anything like that. I mostly just feel annoyed that I'm not getting something accomplished, whether that "something" is actively creative or passively consumptive (as much as something passively consumptive can be "accomplished").

If that kind of thing works for you, that's great! I'm sure I take great mental pleasure from things you consider meaningless :-).

Everyone should find their own way. I agree. But being able to enjoy quiet time is something you can learn.

A common problem for people who can not be without stimuli is that they can not disassociate from their thoughts.

That means just looking at your thoughts or whatever other inner processes are going on and letting them pass by without getting attached to them.

This is what you train when you meditate and it does not come over night, but it gives you the ability to gain more control over yourself and quiet time or time you use to meditate becomes rather entertaining...

There are a lot of scientifically proven benefits for doing meditation as well.

Doing this is a lifestyle choice. There is nothing wrong if you enjoy drinking sugary soda drinks every day if that's you choice that's what it is.

I do meditation since several years and also studied the science related to it. This is meditation in a nutshell for me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sspY43lxqhE

I do believe that I am on a search for quiet, and I agree that for some people they don't like to be alone with their thoughts.

However, I don't think that's a bad thing. I don't know how their minds work, so I just assume that we think and process the world a little differently. Because of that, I try to be sensitive to their needs/desires, and they do the same for me.

It's not a statement of who's "better," just how each person is a little bit different (for me anyway).

I think people who know the matter would tell you that if you though about what you could get done, then you didn't make it to meditate (the right way). That said, I'm not able to do it properly, too.

> Some just turn on the TV whenever they are alone, some have to socialize and can't stand being alone, others do drugs.

Actually, I've had it pointed out that you'll see people crinkling bags, shuffling feet, coughing and clearing throats, and so on if you're in an otherwise silent room. I know that I'm guilty of it sometimes, and when I stay mindful and clamp down on it, I notice someone else picks up the slack.

Some drug users are meditative and introspective and take drugs specifically for that purpose. Depends on the drug, though.

> I think the fundamental problem with noisy people is (...) that they don't have any train of thought to interrupt

I must say that this choice of words rather took me aback as well. The problem is, it's difficult to call someone breathtakingly arrogant (which was my first reaction) when they have so much to be arrogant about!

I'd love to see some more insight on this from pg.

Edit: It's since occurred to me that pg may have meant at that particular moment rather than lacking a train of thought in a general sense. If that's the case, my comment is unjustified - apologies.

> pg may have meant at that particular moment

That's plausible; however, the conscious brain is constantly thinking / wandering / conjecturing about the past and the future, so it's next to impossible to not have a train of thought while you're awake. (If you have years and years of training as a zen master, maybe; if not, not).

Therefore, saying that people don't have a train of thought at a specific point in time is a little like saying they don't have a brain.

The rest of the post from PG would tend to confirm this: "ordinary people can understand" (...) "what they don't grasp".

Am I supposed to take understand that it's okay to be condescending and dismissive if you're pg and not anyone else? I'm really shocked no one else has called him out on this. Normally I see people jumping all over comments like this. Is HN such a cult of personality?

Everyone, even "ordinary" or "normal" people have their trains of thought and to belittle them by suggesting otherwise...

HN is indeed a cult of personality. Perhaps you would be better served by chiming in with your anecdote that shows how you too are exceptional in the same way as pg.

Valley-style entrepreneur culture seems to feature quite a generous serving of self-aggrandising ass-hattery. Is it really any wonder the king of Hackernews has a good few scoops on his plate?

The article primed us for a bitch fest. I came to the comments expecting it. So in this one case, for the therapeutic effects that come from getting shit off your chest, I expected and overlooked the belittling and pretension; maybe others did too. I think that one's perception of quiet is affective --- quiet is relative, and at some point you'll just hear your heart beat, and so there is something else at play here to make everyone so angry about noise --- and these reactions to noise show a degree of misanthropy, which is confirmed by the comments.

I am the same way. I always find it perplexing how most people can't spend literally 10 minutes in complete silence with their own thoughts without getting anxious.

I notice this mostly with the younger generation these days (young women especially). They literally feel the compulsion to always have some sort external stimuli coming in, usually in the form of a constant stream of music from their phones/MP3 players. I remember most of my ex girlfriends being like this, they could rarely be alone with their own thoughts for more than a few minutes.

I genuinely think that a lot of people are afraid of introspection and quiet these days, in fear of what they might find if they look inside themselves or just absorb the world around them in an unprocessed and unaltered fashion. It is just easier to shut down any self reflection our minds might attempt with a constant stream of junk stimulation from the outside.

ADD is becoming a huge problem these days and people's attention spans just keep getting shorter and shorter.

I can only speak for myself but I like to listen to music because when I don't my mind starts blaring its own music at me from within. On repeat. All day. It can actually get really distracting (I'll start singing instead of programming) and I have to start up some music to distract that part of my brain and let the rest of it work on whatever I'm supposed to be doing. I find that certain music (psytrance and goa, the louder the better) distract just the smallest part of the brain, maximizing the part that that can work on whatever problem I need it to.

Similarly, I watch TV at night to dull the inner monologue in my head so I can fall asleep. If I don't my stupid mind fixates on the most negative aspects of my life (even when things are going well) and I stay awake for hours feeling horrible. TV, music, and reading can distract me and let me fall asleep peacefully.

I had the same problem for most of my life, I was unable to stop listening to music in my head.

The solution was surprisingly simple. When I wanted to stop the internal music, I focused on ambient noise. The leaves rustling in the trees. Passing cars: their tires on the pavement, brakes, engine, the exhaust note. There are quite a few things to notice. While focusing, the music stopped.

At first it took great deliberate effort to quiet the music in my head. But eventually it just went away, within a matter of weeks. I no longer need to exert effort, I have conscious control over whether I want to replay a song in my head, or just have silence.

My meditation teacher Gil Fronsdal thought of it. He's a genius.

Thanks Paul, never thought I'd come across the name Gil Fronsdal name here. I used to listen to Zencast a lot, I should do that again some time.

I can quite relate to you, music is around me whole day, otherwise I fidget, hum, whistle, tap, sing...

What I prefer over TV for killing the brain noise before sleep is, again, music.

Music is the best.

My theory is that this would die down after a while if you don't "feed" it.. at least for most people. What is your experience? Have you ever tried to force silence upon yourself?

I've actually done this thing, as in I've participated in a 10-day Vipassana meditation course, during which participants cannot listen to music or interact with each other.

I can say that forcing silence upon myself resulted in a "mental withdrawal", if you will. It wasn't very pleasant, the music gets louder and louder and quite unbearable at times. That said, I did indeed see some effects at the end, in a form of periods of silence in my mind(which was kind of spectacular for me; there's some music in the back of my head at all times). My opinion is that even longer period of non-listening would yield even bigger results.

I really recommend the experience(the deprivation, I mean; the Vipassana part is also cool, but kind of orthogonal). Even though it's very demanding, you can really put things into perspective and learn a lot about how your body reacts to things. It also gives you a completely different outlook on stuff like solitary confinement.

What do you mean force silence upon myself? Are we talking meditation or just working/reading in quiet places? For minutes or hours (or days)? I first noticed the music thing when I was on the high school swim team and would swim for multiple hours every day. Under water it's not quiet, but there are no discernible sounds beyond the water itself--all I would hear was the music in my head.

I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining. I love music and it's been a huge part of my life since I can remember (and I'm old).

But from my experience, I don't buy your theory. I think I'm just wired different than people that seek out quiet places.

Force silence upon oneself is to shut up the mind as soon as it starts blabbering. There are means to ease this up, like counting or looking at things and focusing on their characteristics (green jacket, yellow leave, noisy car) or feeling your body (my thumb tickles, my stomach feels empty).

Just stop when the brain starts picking up from there: "My stomach feels empty (BECAUSE YOU HAVEN'T EATEN AND WHENEVER YOU DO YOU EAT TRASH)" you just stop the thought on the BE and focus on the next inner or outer thing or on the next number of the count. When you can't stop the thought on time, just ignore it and move on.

At first is hard, especially with a noisy brain, but it gets easier and easier.

You do realize that there is always external stimulus around right?

Be it the noise of the ventilation system, or car horns outside, true silence rarely exists.

That said, when I am at home there is little else except for the sound of my computer fans as I read a book. But when I am at work, I most certainly choose to control what background noises I listen to. Music is most certainly a part of that.

As for stimulus shutting down self reflection, I find that quite the opposite is true. Different forms of stimulus encourage different forms of self reflection.

In fact, true silence is so rare, it is perceived as noise.

In fact, true silence will make you insane. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_deprivation

Can't find the article right now, but they once put people in a completely soundproof room; their minds started to make up sounds and increased their hearing sensitivity to the point where they could hear their own muscles move. I believe the longest one lasted 45 minutes.

This may be the article you were looking for: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2124581/The-w...

True silence for long periods of time makes you insane. For a minute or two it's awesome how you start hearing "the sound of silence".

"young women especially" really?

Should he disregard his observations because it offends your sensibilities?

No, he should disregard them because as written they're sexist, and don't even have good methodology to try and stand in their defense. His confirmation bias is one thing, the assertion that these women "literally feel a compulsion" that he hasn't justified is another thing entirely.

It was more ageist than sexist. It was a pretty standard "get off my lawn and turn down that music" comment.

> No, he should disregard them because as written they're sexist, and don't even have good methodology to try and stand in their defense.

So... If he had a sufficiently good methodology which proved his assertions, they would cease to be sexist and you politically correct lot would approve of them? Somehow I doubt it.

Yes, if proven they would cease to be sexist, because they'd be discriminating based on facts, not based on his apparent prejudice. (However, since the conjecture does seem to come from a combination of sexism/ageism/confirmation bias, it would be surprising if they were proved.)

BTW: Are you proud not to be in the politically correct "lot"? All it really amounts to is trying not to be unnecessarily hateful or demeaning to one another.

I'm not sure that stating an observation that a certain tendency "seems to be" more common among a particular subgroup really counts as discrimination.

> Yes, if proven they would cease to be sexist, because they'd be discriminating based on facts, not based on his apparent prejudice. (However, since the conjecture does seem to come from a combination of sexism/ageism/confirmation bias, it would be surprising if they were proved.)

I see. It's good to know that employers are now free to throw out all applications from Ethiopians, because of the fact that the average IQ in Ethiopia is 63.

> BTW: Are you proud not to be in the politically correct "lot"? All it really amounts to is trying not to be unnecessarily hateful or demeaning to one another.

Please. Political correctness amounts to much more than that.

There needs to be a logically-valid reason to bring gender/age/country of origin/etc. into the discussion at all.

I.e., if you're interviewing an individual for a job, that means you're evaluating that individual's ability to fulfill the job requirements.

You'll get a hell of a lot better mileage out of, say, talking to them about complicated problems than you could ever get from even the average IQ in their family, let alone country or some other ridiculously large group like that. No need to get into the discussion of how valid that number is -- it's irrelevant to a job interview.

To the original point -- if maybe some large-scale study does show that young women tend to make more "social noise" than young men, I'm still having trouble imagining ways that might be relevant when noisy people enter a room I'm in.

Logic fail. But there is a difference between your (uncited) claim and "all Ethiopians I've met are thick", no?

Sure. Why not? Listening to music while in public sends the clear signal that she doesn't want to talk to you or anyone else. I think young people use earphones as a way of finding some privacy in an over socialized world. A pretty good adaptation, I would say.

The first weeks when I was living in Bangkok the busy, nosiy, smelly environment really drained my energy. Using headphones and music to escape the noise pollution of downtown Bangkok really helped me.

Later on I developed some sort of tolerance to the constant noise. Anyway I had the choice to move to a city or to the countryside last year when I decided to go back to Europe and the absolute silence at 3am out here, next to the mountains in southern Germany, is amazing.

I don't think it's for privacy, unless you're in a situation where social interaction is expected (you don't expect much of it on a daily commute, for example). Music adds comfort to an environment which is usually quite hostile: traffic noise, flashing adverts and constant movement, etc.

That's the pattern I've noticed as well.

> noisy people is not that they're inconsiderate, but that they don't have any train of thought to interrupt

I once have read an article about introverts vs. extroverts and the articles conclusion was that extroverts need to communicate with others in order to reflect on their ideas, while introverts tend to do reflection with themselves.

So, according to this article, if you tell extroverts to be quiet you are actually interrupting their train of thoughts.

Being an introvert myself, I would have never come to this conclusion on my own.

My trick is to use http://rainymood.com - the background noise of a storm is surprisingly peaceful.

I usually turn the thunder and lighting on and listen to this too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTVraVgzC9U

Maybe not quite so peaceful :)

Edit: My mistake, I'm normally on http://raining.fm/

I cannot even tolerate rain... I need noise: http://simplynoise.com/

... with noise-canceling headphones. I just discovered these a couple of years ago, and I was - am still! - positively shocked at how well they work.

Can you say which brand/model left you positively shocked? I'm still skeptical of those and would love to be proved wrong.

Bose QuietComfort. They're really expensive ($300), but one of the few products I find to be worth the seemingly ridiculous cost.

I listen to bird song, as it makes me think I'm outside in the Summer Time:


Thanks for this, my office is often loud and constant music gives me headaches or distracts me so I'm always excited to find some alternatives.

Sorry for the late reply - You're most welcome, my girlfriend showed me this 6 months ago and I'm a convert now, to the point where I find it difficult to concentrate without it and I have to keep my window open at night or everything just feels wrong.

I hope you enjoy it, I know I for one find it hard to focus with music in my ears, I've even tried Beethoven at one point but nothing gave me the right vibe.

Ordinary people can understand

And so is the fundamental problem with quiet people that they're hyper-sensitive, judgemental assholes?

You are generalizing. Every group has assholes. Hyper-sensitive is probably closer to the truth.

No, actually I was mocking.

What an arrogant attitude. My wife has severe ADHD. You'll note the second part is "hyperactivity", this means she can have extreme focus in environments where I can barely think.

Paul - are you really this much of a prick? Were these people partying at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning? If so, then you have a point. Otherwise, can't you understand that some people like to have fun, like to listen to music, etc? And anyone not like yourself is ordinary???

I don't agree at all - some people require stillness and quiet while others don't. My most creative moments have been drunk in the early hours with music full blast. Others in a quiet office with everyone gone home. If society has become louder, then that's the new morality, otherwise there would be 'noisy' carriages on an otherwise 'quiet' train ;-)

Mine as well. I find the present startup culture to be extremely hostile to quietness, and I'm hoping I can lead a rebellion. Are there small still small tech companies that value deep, peaceful thought?

"I think the fundamental problem with noisy people is not that they're inconsiderate, but that they don't have any train of thought to interrupt, and they thus don't realize the havoc they're wreaking."

A more polite, and perhaps more accurate rendering would be "Many noisy people work out what they think by saying it." To some of them the introvert who much prefers to think matters out before speaking may seem as thoughtless as they do to the introvert.

I am able to maintain a deep level of concentration in any environment. My internal state is not my neighbor's responsibility. There is no noise, only music.

Anecdotal, but: I can be noisy as a consequence of having a train of thought. Sometimes, for certain types of problem, I think best while talking out loud, waving my arms, and diagramming on a whiteboard. Not a quiet process but definitely underpinned by a train of thought.

I must say pg, I am a bit baffled by this after Startup school; there were so many people at the reception on Friday evening that I went hoarse within 15 minutes of arriving. It was nice to be there but almost impossible to hear what people were saying.

Agree with the sentiment but how do you account for the noisy ones being smart (processing their thoughts) if

they don't have any train of thought to interrupt

is true?

I've often wondered what I in particular and my group in general could accomplish if we had a quiet place to think at work.

There's nothing like the quietude of considered thought - sometimes it was one's only escape amidst gunfire...

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