by Michael Sansolo
As we head into a new year we need to recognize that one of the biggest problems we face in the workforce, our families or society at large, is that other people simply don’t think or communicate like us.
More than ever, we live with generational diversity. My own family, for example, includes two 90 year olds as well as their four great-grandchildren, the youngest of whom is just shy of her six-month birthday. Partially that’s great luck and good health in my family, but it’s also a sign of the times of longevity. And that means we have seen a lot.
The 90 year olds grew up under the cloud of the Great Depression and the challenges and triumphs of World War II. Their children (including me) were part of the post-war Baby Boom, experiencing the space race and the Cold War. Our children grew up in an era of new technology as well as the 9-11 attacks and the Great Recession. And that youngest generation will forever be known for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
In other words, it’s always something whether it’s Bing Crosby, the Beatles or Taylor Swift.
But more than that, each generation has grown up with radically different technology, changing the way we communicate. We could take those four generations in my family and again find incredible change in how they communicated from party-line phones (Google it!) to smartphones and Tik Tok.
In the business world, that means you are constantly trying to communicate with people - staffers and customers - whose preferred method of connecting, checking in and giving or getting feedback is wildly different. And, no doubt, that’s causing you issues no matter which generation you call your own.
The Washington Post ran an interesting article recently looking at these communication styles. The article included and inter-active tool to help readers determine which generation their style fits with.
I took the quiz and found that my style skips from Boomer to Millennial, with assorted stops all along the way because I use a wide range of communication styles. Many on-line quizzes are simplistic and frivolous, but I don’t think this one is. The simple truth is that we’re all trying to communicate with people whose experience is very different than our own and who might simply not understand what we are saying or how we are saying it.
It’s not that they don’t care; it’s just that they are different and that’s absolutely okay. But we all need to try to understand it so that we don’t mistake generational differences for apathy or worse.
Keep in mind that a failure to communicate isn’t just the fault of the recipient. It could also be the fault of the sender. The more we understand that the better the chance we have to deal with this new era of diversity.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com.
His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.
And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.
For information about hiring Michael to speak at your next meeting or conference, click here.