All my life, I have been trained to talk.

   Before you get the wrong idea, I am neither a professional speaker nor a stand-up comedian (or a government appointed agent of secret negotiations…yet). But starting out with repeating after animated characters in children’s shows to voicing my opinions in front of a classroom, conversational courtesies and speaking skills have played a pivotal role in my life.

   The same, I think, can be said for most people. While some of us tend to trumpet our emotions and others confide in close companions, we all are incessantly wrapped in a world of words, syllables and intonations.

   Conditioned from a young age, we are familiar with how to conjure up the perfect words to sound cultured, intelligent, and polite.

   Throughout my life, I’ve gone through so much trouble to find the right words to say that I never noticed when I started to lose my listening.

   No, I am not going deaf–my hearing is still completely intact. But just like having perfect sight does not guarantee you true vision, being able to hear sounds does not equate to true listening. Of course, I’m sure if I made an effort, I would be able to retain the meaning behind others’ words. The problem stands, however, that in this day and age, this much needed conscious effort no longer commonly exists.

   First of all, we are all addicted to distractions. And it’s not completely our fault–we don’t need to be in a bustling metropolis today to feel submerged in an ongoing visual and auditory cacophony.

   Ringtones and alerts from our devices remind us of all our virtual affairs and the media today screams at us with startling pictures and click-bait headlines.

   We have gotten to the point that everything needs to be dialed up in order to catch our attention.

   We have become desensitized and deaf to all the subtle, undeliberate sounds in the world.

   But those sounds don’t matter anyways, right? Surely, your voice is still heard. Because your words have meaning and are superior to the soft whirr of machines at night and the sound of unidentified birds squawking in the morning…right?       

   Wrong.Think back to the last time you had a conversation with someone. Whether it was a confession, or an argument or anything else. Do you still remember the things they said? The words and phrases that they so meticulously chose?

   The truth is, modern technology has given us the choice to record anything and everything that was once a premium experience for our ears.

   So much that when we are having a conversation, we are still stuck in the mentality that every word spoken could be repeated or replayed later on.

   Even more dangerous is our mindset of personal broadcasting.. As I’ve mentioned before, we all are so invested with our own words and opinions and the impressions that we leave that we disregard what others are saying.

   In conversations, our minds act as sieves that only salvage the words necessary to construct a response.

   Without active listening, a conversation is deemed meaningless. We lose the extremely valuable perspectives of our peers–the chance to build rapport and be empathetic.

   Our generation is slowly becoming deaf to the world around us, so when will you be ready to take off those headphones, forget about your personal monologues and finally start listening to those around you?