What I Learned About Communicating Today - Ouch!
It was her face that communicated, “Look you old fart I don’t have time for all this yack-yack; tell me what to do. Let’s end this tedious conversation as soon as possible. I have a life. I do not want to prolong the veneer of pretending to share a part of mine with you.”
The woman had a pseudo smile that was neither friendly nor inviting. Somehow I have crossed over into the undesirable zone. I was explaining a concept to a person approximately 30 years younger than myself. I looked at her face. The woman was more than bored, she was pissed.
In an instant I understood. The reality was that I was trying to communicate cover your assets type of information. The young woman was in “just tell me what do” mode. Her face caused me to instantly stop talking. I took a breath, mechanically answered her question and sent her on her way.
I wasn’t angry. I was more amused and a little sad. I wondered how to communicate with a person or a generational group of people that honestly doesn’t believe I have anything to offer but a time sink.
I do sometimes give overly detailed explanations. I try not to because I know 97.3 percent of the people I meet don’t want to hear it. I live in a world of sound bites, clips and short attention span measured in electronic units.
I slip up. I forget that unless I am in the right clique with language pre-approval then what I have to say is not warranted or receivable. Only when I package my communication in an acceptable format can it be heard. Sometimes. Not this time though.
Boomers and Echo Boomers
Technically, I am an Echo Boomer, I was way too young to participate in the things blamed on and held accountable for by my older Boomer cohorts. I’m a tail-end Boomer into almost proto-Gen X. I was in my 40s before I set foot in San Francisco and that was six years ago.
There are a clump of young people that really want Boomers to go away, as in die. This is nothing new. There has always been a portion of the prior generation that wished the older generation to hurry up and shuffle off the mortal coil and be quick about it. Most of us grow out of it when the reality of living an adult life hit us full force.
Sometimes talking with an older person can give you peace of mind. Or a piece of junk. Being older does not mean you are graced with having a lick of sense. Don't waste time talking to a young or old fool. But listen to the person before deciding, ok?
There are other folks that just want the prior generation to fess up to hypocrisy. In June 2009 Little Isis has valid points in her post:
Who is going to inherit your debt? Us. Who’s futures are in jeopardy? Ours. So own up to it. Be responsible. Be adults. Suck it up. We’re your children, and we didn’t ask for any of this.
I felt the same way 35 years ago! I did not ask for any of this crap that has happened. The thing is, unless you are a non-profit psychic, you deal with what comes your way.
The hypocrisy? Yes, tons of it. From the mutation of political correctness to the current “Don’t tax me bro” followed by complaints about the deficit. Which we should complain about, but a little consistency would be nice. Like how to fix it? Deal with it? A national honesty about a balance between military, corporate and domestic spending excesses?
That would take a conversation longer than 140 characters. It would take a range of diverse people talking and not screaming, debasing or wishing the other dead because there is a different point of view. It requires a bit (not much) of history and a shared understanding of problems and potential solutions.
It Starts With the Willingness to Learn
Honestly, I don't want to hold one person up as the representative for all of Gen X and Y. If she could tell her side of the story it would be a tale of woe, having this woman repeat the same thing she said last week and more besides.
However, it did get me thinking about how there are communication differences between Boomers and the Generationals.
I'm willing to try to cut down on my spoken verbiage. In addition, I found some resources to help me understand better how to communicate.
My starting steps include reading a good explanation of the differences between the generations called Tips to Improve Interaction among the Generations. Originally created by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association Office of Diversity, I found this version at the College of Business at Colorado State University.
Another source of information is an article by Jenna Reith on Understanding the Communication Styles of the Millennial Generation(Adobe pdf).
Amy Lynch of Bottomline Conversations is an author, speaker and entrepreneur who has written about generational communication issues. Sometimes it is the mental old dusties that are perpetrators of ageism.
Well I have plenty of reading to do and I need to find a mental balm for my ouchie.