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Talk to me

Why each different generation uses their own preferences to communicate.

I am a Baby Boomer. The only ways we had to talk to each other when I was young was either face-to-face or on the telephone. By telephone, I mean that rectangular box that hung on the wall and had a long curly cord connecting it to the “receiver”. We only had one phone for the whole family to share. It was in the kitchen so everyone in the house could hear the least one side of it. My brother and sisters were constantly interrupting me wanting their turn to use it. Important things were supposed to be discussed in person. If we wanted to get together with friends to make plans we either walked to their house or got one of our parents to drive us. I remember walking up to Nancy in the school hallway to ask her if she would go out with me. Those conversations were terrifying. It never dawned on me that she was just as frightened as I was. I guess all of us Baby Boomers discovered that there was honesty in looking at someone when you talked with them.

My wife Sara is a Gen X’er. She also grew up with face-to-face talks and telephones (but this generation got push buttons instead of a rotary dial!). When she was entering the workplace a new phenomenon became available…the World Wide Web (younger people know this as the Internet. Ever wonder what the “www” stands for?) One of the biggest features of the web was email. Email quickly became the standard for interoffice communication. No one believed that communication could get any better.

My daughter Heather is a Millennial. She got her first cell phone when she was 11 years old. Having a “personal communication device” has always been a part of her life. I was an educational Consultant with Sprint the year she turned 11. I remember the day when they brought us into a “train the trainer” session and introduced text messaging. They told us that text messages were more common than phone calls in Europe and Japan. I laughed out loud. I thought I heard someone say, “Hey you could text LOL for that”. Text messages were so convenient and easy. The only trouble was that there was no way to attach emotions to the text. That created the introduction of the emoji. From there it was off to the races. Soon there was a huge choice of communication applications; one for just about anything you could want. Heather uses all of them.

Here’s the point. Baby Boomers still like to see people when they talk to them. Generation X’ers are good with talking or email. Millennials like the convenience of using applications to communicate. None are right; none are wrong. We just all have our preferences. If you want to create harmonious communication, take a few minutes to ask those you communicate what style they prefer. It won’t hurt any of use to be a little flexible. And it will create better workplace.

Ps…Generation Z people prefer video as their communication of choice. Better get ready for that.



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