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How to Communicate with People from Different Generations

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Communication is essential to the success of any community, at any time in history. People are living longer and decided to keep working longer because of recent advances in medical technology.

In a world where people of all ages are mingling more than ever before, it should come as no surprise that effective communication between generations is more crucial than ever.

The Different Generations

Each generation has a unique communication style. Here are some tips for communicating with each one:

Gen Z (born after 2000)

Children born in the 1990s and after are part of the iGeneration, a group that includes all children aged 15 and under who have grown up with computers and the Internet. Keep in mind that they didn't decide to be technologically savvy, they just naturally are. They have broader, more rapid, and more diverging modes of thought.

Values: Fun and action-packed content. It's important to keep in mind that they're still children. They've always had access to whatever information, movie, or song they might want. Because of their short attention spans and preference for straightforward, lighthearted conversation, they regard these traits highly.

Communication: When speaking to a member of Generation Z, it's best to avoid filler and get to the meat of the matter quickly. You might even try using the method of contact that they prefer. Maybe you could send them a text? Refresh their calendars? Why not drop them a line on Twitter or Instagram?

You get the point; just show up where they are. It's a lot more probable that they'll pay attention if you can break it down into manageable chunks and make it entertaining. They will tune out faster than you can say "140 characters" so avoid lecturing them at all costs.

When should kids be allowed to start using electronics like smartphones, tablets, and personal computers? Here's a video of a newborn using an iPad more expertly than I do.

Millennials (1980-2000)

Unexpectedly, millennials have the best relationships with their parents of any generation. The millennial generation is less likely to have had disagreements with their parents than the baby boomer generation. and thank goodness for that, because roughly one-eighth of older Millennials (those aged 22 and up) report having "boomeranged" back to living with their parents.

Values: Their Core Value is Free Expression. More than three-quarters have some sort of online social presence, and almost 40% are covered with ink. Gen Y values individuality, authenticity, and having their voice heard.

Communication: One piece of advice for communicating with others is to solicit their thoughts and ideas and incorporate them into the solution. Get in touch with a millennial before you have a solid plan in place and ask for their input. This will make them feel more invested and that they are part of the solution.

Malala Yousafzai is a girl education advocate from Pakistan. She received the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17, making her the youngest person ever to receive this honor.

Gen X (born 1965 to 1979)

Gen Xers are the most stressed out because they have to deal with expectations from both the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. Nearly half of Xers (47%) are bringing up a child from a different generation (Gen Z or Millennial).

Only 15% of Boomers are supporting both an elderly parent and a dependent child financially. The pressure on members of Generation X started early in life and has only increased. Due to the economy, they commonly reached the professional stage with both parents working.

Values: Responsibility distribution is highly valued. They are looking for friends, allies, and supporters. They are the ones that usually shoulder the burden of providing for others, both emotionally and monetarily. Almost all Generation Xers (84%) say their parents lean on them for emotional assistance.

Communication: Communicating with a Xer is easier if you focus on meeting their needs and relieving any stress they may be under. Consider, "How can I help, rather than how can I gain aid?" and you'll be rewarded with positive feedback and appreciation.

Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg is a popular example of Generation X.

They've accomplished a lot with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, and CEO, by working together. As of that day, one billion people have utilized Facebook collectively.

This brings us to the finest part: The age difference between Sandberg and Zuckerberg is a generational one. They must know what they're doing.

Boomers (born 1946 to 1964)

The Baby Boomer generation is fascinating because of the divisions within it. In contrast to half of the boomers who were able to retire comfortably and spend their time doting on grandchildren, the other half are struggling financially as a result of not having saved enough to weather the Great Recession of 2008.

Values: Traditional values such as respect are highly regarded in their culture. Both generations of Boomers now feel entitled to respect from their younger peers and worry about the future of cultural practices important to them. Some people worry that we're losing the art of conversation because of computers and smartphones.

Communication: Respect is the cornerstone of effective communication. Communicating effectively with a boomer requires consideration for their life experiences and perspectives, whether you're presenting a new topic or working through a disagreement.

Generation Baby Boomers have left and are still leaving their impact on the present and future. Politicians like Obama, Bush, Clinton, Romney, and Rice are included in this category.

Silent (born before 1946)

Let them have some fun and enjoy life for once! Our Silent ancestors can teach us a great deal. Listen to all of their tales, and don't forget to bring their favorite sweet treat; they've earned it!

Values: As a result, they place a high value on experience and knowledge. What they really want is to have fun and teach others what they've learned.

Communication: Allow them to talk to you in whatever way they feel most comfortable. Take in what you can by listening.

Martin Luther King Jr., Neil Armstrong, Johnny Cash, Barbara Walters, Sandra Day O'Conner, and Warren Buffet are just a few of the notable figures from the past who were members of the Silent Generation.

How to Improve Communication Between Generations

When you include the different communication styles and expectations of workers of different ages, it's clear that effective communication is more difficult than ever.

Despite the difficulties, leaders should strive for effective communication across generations. The five methods listed below should be of assistance.

Respect the preferences of the person with whom you are conversing.

Pay attention to how people of different generations like to communicate and adopt that approach. People from the Baby Boomer generation who are trying to make contact with members of Generation Z should, for instance, not call and leave a voicemail.

It's preferable to rely on instant messaging or texting instead. On the other hand, if a member of Gen Z wants to communicate with a Baby Boomer, they shouldn't use FaceTime or direct messages. Rather, it's best to wait for a phone call or in-person meeting to discuss the matter.

It's no longer up to the sender to decide how they want the message delivered; instead, they must consider how the recipient will be most receptive to the information being sent.

It's also crucial to use the most appropriate medium for conveying the data at hand. Talking on the phone is the best option for in-depth discussions or arguments that are likely to get heated.

You should only send long, detailed instructions via email. The purpose of the chat is to disseminate information, have casual conversations, collaborate as a group, and have fun.

Long, feedback-rich, focused, emotionally charged, or otherwise challenging conversations are best carried out via video (Zoom, FaceTime, Teams, etc.).

Mirror the communication.

Make sure to reply to messages via the same method they were sent. If a member of Generation X receives a text message from a member of Generation Y, that member of Generation X would be wise not to return the call but instead text back in kind.

If switching between channels is unavoidable, be sure to summarize your conversations in the new medium.

Recognize the range of human communication styles

The ways in which people of different generations express themselves to one another are vastly different, whether in the workplace or amongst friends and family.

Conversations between people are best when they can happen in person, and the baby boomer age is no exception. Since face-to-face interactions are given less weight in today's texting and social media explosion, veterans may feel disrespected and undervalued as a result.

In the subsequent generations, beginning with the baby boomers, technological means of communication are gradually accepted. Third, in line, Generation X is open to societal change but may be resistant to online-based communication methods like teleconferencing.

Generation Y, sometimes known as millennials, is the most recent demographic group, and its members were brought up alongside the rise of the Internet and social media.

In light of this striking contrast, particularly between the baby boomer age and the millennials, it is essential that we fully grasp the benefits and drawbacks of each form of communication.

It might be argued that cosmopolitanism is significant in today's culture and that while older generations may prefer face-to-face communication, it is often important to communicate with people who live either too far away to meet in person or overseas.

While it's true that in-person interactions are optimal for building meaningful bonds, electronic means of communication are just as efficient for reaching out to people who live far away.

It takes no time at all to send or receive a message using digital means. Although making an effort to meet in person can be the foundation of a personal connection, the value of communicating by instant message, text, or phone call cannot be so readily discounted because it is quicker and generally more cost-effective.

There are benefits and drawbacks to every form of communication, but the generational gap can be narrowed if people take the time to learn about each one.

Related: How to Improve Communication Skills

Be cautious with delicate topics.

If you're trying to have a conversation across generations with someone you don't know very well or with a stranger, it's probably best to steer clear of contentious issues like religion and politics.

Disagreement is commonplace since these issues are less pressing for millennials than they were for seniors. Nothing can cast more of a damper on a dinner with new or old friends than an unexpected generational fight over homosexuality or abortion.

Perfect timing with the perfect words.

When the wrong words are spoken at the wrong time, communication can become strained. Saying the proper things at the proper times is the essence of diplomacy.

If you want to break down generational barriers in communication, it's best to broach touchy subjects only after you've established that everyone involved is at ease with the idea of listening to and respecting a different generation's point of view.

Conversations will be most fruitful if they are allowed to progress to this level of obedience, wherein information from past generations can be gleaned.

Establish norms for how you will communicate

As a result, if a group or person hasn't made their preferred method of communication clear, others will likely utilize the one they find most convenient. Instead, take the initiative to let them know how to get in touch with you.

For instance, a millennial worker might specify in their email signature or Slack profile that they'd rather be texted than called. Another option is for a Baby Boomer to state on their voicemail that they would rather correspond via email.

Related: 16 Ways to Improve Your Time Management

Realize the value of proper etiquette

Millennials have ushered in a new era of short message service (SMS), instant messaging (IM), colloquialisms, and slang.

When electronic mail was first introduced as a replacement for traditional correspondence, it followed the same formal conventions as typed and handwritten letters. Therefore, it might be challenging for the mature and baby boomer generations to accept and adjust to the increasingly informal discourse surrounding today's culture.

Older generations may view the slang and colloquialisms used by younger generations as signifying a lack of education and effort in communicating. Some people prefer the formal style of writing because it is more polished and professional looking.

However, while dealing with little matters, whether at business or at home, slang and acronyms can help you get your point through more quickly and with less effort. The lack of formality is more noticeable in online interactions than in person.

If being formal across all channels of communication is truly important, it should be done. An informal "here" text rather than a lengthy, official explanation of your arrival at the airport may be preferable if a family member is picking you up. This sort of explanation is best saved for an in-person chat or a phone call.

To the elder generation, it may come as a shock to learn that most languages are dynamic and ever-evolving, but this fact has crucial implications for how they should respond to the increasing informality of spoken language. It is also crucial that the younger generation understand that these linguistic shifts might be difficult to master.

Make a team communication agreement

An official agreement outlining the ground rules for how a team should communicate with one another is what a communication agreement is all about.

In today's high-tech and digital workplaces, open and transparent communication about communication is crucial. A communication agreement can help teams get on the same page, prevent unnecessary misunderstandings, and keep important work safe from distractions.

Related: What Makes a Great Manager?

Recognize that there is a generational gap in values.

It's plain to see that today's youth and today's adults do not share the same set of core beliefs and ideals. This may be seen in anything from the clothes people choose to wear to the means of communication and social interaction they favor.

Recognizing these distinctions will help you avoid offending others. There is a general trend toward more progressive views among today's youth compared to previous generations. As a result, it might be challenging to have productive conversations without repercussions.

Disagreements can arise even within families when there is a generational gap in regard. If we want to avoid awkward interactions like this, we need to learn about and account for the distinctions between the oldest and youngest generations.

For instance, in the past, unmarried, cohabitating couples were not as common or accepted as they are today among the youth. While conflict is inevitable, it can be mitigated if both parties take the time to learn about the other's perspective.

Related: 20 Time Management Strategies for Achieving Your Goals

Book Recommendations

To be successful in business, one must possess great and effective communication abilities. Possessing solid communication abilities will help you realize your full potential.

The books on this topic that you absolutely must read to improve your communication skills are listed below.

Simply Said

This book provides a high-level summary of all aspects of business communication, including presenting skills, customer communication, and methods of delegating to others. Helpful advice is included. The structure is practical, and the advice made is backed up by several examples.

By reading this book filled with inspiring accounts from the ExecComm team, you'll gain insight into how to frame your inquiries, select appropriate follow-up questions, and deliver effective responses. Perfect for new professionals and those with years of experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Turning one's attention away from oneself.

  • Training oneself to hear what others are saying.

  • Ability to convey ideas clearly both orally and in writing.

  • Capable of persuading others and appearing credible in one's own eyes.

  • How to talk to people and get along with them.

People Skills

The author Robert Bolton identifies twelve of the most prevalent communication obstacles, demonstrating how they strain connections by fostering hypersensitivity, aggressiveness, or dependence.

The author outlines a strategy for developing the mental agility necessary for sustained focus, assertive communication, conflict resolution, and cooperative problem-solving.

It's straightforward and easy to understand while still being packed with useful information. If you're having problems communicating with others, the ideas and strategies in this book can help.

Key Takeaways

  • Tips on making your wants known and being heard through basic assertion strategies.

  • The significance of nonverbal cues.

  • Silence is a powerful means of expression.

  • Strategies for defusing conflict.

How to Talk to Anyone

The author provides 101 tried-and-true methods for effective interpersonal interaction. She focuses on communication skills and icebreakers that have been shown to be effective in a variety of contexts, including generating a good first impression, building trust quickly and more.

The instruments of effective communication are priceless; this book teaches its readers how to use them effectively.

Key Takeaways

  • Making an impact that lasts.

  • The art of mastering small chat, big talk, and body language.

  • Sounding like a powerful figure when speaking.

  • Getting along with anybody and everything

  • Involving oneself with another person's pride.

  • Meeting the tigers and having a conversation without being devoured.

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links to products and/or services.

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