My Week Without Headphones

I spent this week challenging myself to not use headphones. Headphones can make you secluded from the world so I thought I would free myself from that seclusion to open myself to the world around me. Instead of being focused on my little world I wanted to embrace others.

I am going to be honest with you… I didn’t do all I said I would in my post, but I did learn a lot so I’m calling it a success. Here’s what I’ve learned….

When I pushed myself to break the silence I found myself genuinely more cheery.

The easiest time for me to speak up turned out to be in the elevator. At first I didn’t know what to say and I felt a bit insecure, but then I loosened up and started with small topics. I started out with just a simple hello or the typical “How about this weather” comment. A couple times I would compliment someone on their outfit. I truly did like what they were wearing, I wasn’t just looking for an excuse to say something. It was nice to break the silence and make the other person smile. Often a little comment would turn into a short little conversation and laughter. I realized after leaving the elevator that I was genuinely more cheery, which makes sense because instead of having a dull elevator ride I had added an innocent moment of joy for both me and the fellow elevator passenger. I left the elevator with a smile and I actually felt more energized. Happy people can get through a long day better than a day filled of solemn moments.

I noticed everyone around me looked miserable. 

Waiting for the subway or riding into the city I was able to notice people more. There were so many people not purposely ignoring each other, only thinking about themselves and so many faces glued to their device. People just seemed cranky. The only people with smiles on their faces were those who were traveling and chatting together. I thought to myself, why does a subway have to be so standoffish?

I remember a few months back when a foreigner who had just moved to New York for business. He just struck up a conversation with me on the subway. I felt kind of uncomfortable because I wasn’t used to that type of behavior, but honestly it was really nice to have a real conversation with someone. I have another friend who randomly met someone on the bus and is now friends with her. We just went to her roof top party last week and met so many more people!

It was hard to break the silence and embrace others around me because that wasn’t the norm.

I found myself needing to give myself a pep talk before coming up with something to say. Especially on the subway… All I could really manage was a polite smile and trying to be conscious of people around me so I wasn’t in their way or bothering them. Sometimes when I did sputter out words they were too soft to hear.

It is kind of sad that its so hard to say something.  Why does it have to be that way? We’re all just people. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could enjoy a light conversation with someone you just met? Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to meet people after college. Most people are stuck in their world doing what they need to get done, missing moments to connect with others.

Overall the week wasn’t as bad as I thought. I could actually hear my own thoughts and didn’t have as many songs stuck in my head all day. I think I’ll continue to use headphones less often. I don’t think I can totally rule them out, but there should be some moderation in my life. I think it will be good to be at peace with the silence and “courageous” to break the silence as well.

Will you take the challenge to put the headphones away? To be at peace with the silence and also be courageous enough to break it?

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10 thoughts on “My Week Without Headphones

  1. I never use headphones – I can’t stand having constant noise and I really appreciate the time to think and take in my surroundings. I completely agree that the world would be a much nicer place if more people struck up conversations with strangers, but you’re right that we’re not used to it, and sometimes it’s difficult to know how to break the ice.

    • This is why I love input from people. It’s interesting to see how different people in different places and generations do and feel about things.

      Maybe my generation is so fast paste we need to learn to slow down to smell the roses. Or maybe its not even a generation thing, maybe its a habit some people have just created?

      • I’m guessing we’re around the same age (early 20s?) but I definitely think I’m in the minority for our generation! I do think a lot of people need to ‘slow down to smell the roses’ as you so nicely put it – too many people do seem to be stuck in their own little bubbles and it doesn’t help to create supportive communities. I guess it’s just difficult to break the cycle and get people talking again. I’m sure most people would actually like to make the world a friendlier place!

  2. I think this was a really awesome experiment Katie. I don’t walk around with headphones, but I’m going to be thinking about something similar to do in my own life. I found this post inspiring. Good for you!

  3. I’m so glad you did this experiment; it was interesting to see the differences you noticed. I fall in the same category as sweetlyindecisive. While it’s not the norm for our generation, sometimes I’d rather be thinking or observing other people (not in a creepy way) than listening to music or doing something with my phone. Part of this might be because I just got my first smart phone less than a year ago, so I’m not used to having it there for gaming and surfing the web.

    I think many people use smart phones and other devices as security blankets, which is sad. Everyone feels so awkward about conversing with strangers (myself included) that they feel the need to make themselves look busy or unavailable. I think it’s refreshing to put my device away and be in the moment. You don’t necessarily need to force conversation, but it’s nice to simply notice what’s going on around you and be open to other people who may want to talk.

    • I love how you put it here… security blankets and putting the device away to be in the moment. I couldn’t agree more! Its kind of sad that I can notice the difference even in myself and I never thought I was really attached to my phone or anything like that. But when you strip yourself free of any attachment you can definitely feel the difference. Glad you like the experiment. 🙂

  4. I actually don’t like to wear headphones walking on the street or on the bus because I feel I can’t hear the music all that well without pumping up the volume. Then, I risk losing my hearing. I prefer not wearing headphones because I like to see all the other people on the bus and to hear their conversations. I see women my age carting around babies and toddlers. I see older folks going to and from work. It makes me appreciative of what I have since I could have easily been that woman with three kids under the age of five, or one of those people who has to bring a ton of groceries in a cart, or someone in a wheelchair that has to catch the bus.

  5. Pingback: What I Learned From A Book - 101 Secrets For Your Twenties |

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