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8 Communication Skills to Overcome the Generation Gap

8 Communication Skills to Overcome the Generation Gap

In every generation, communication plays a vital role towards a functional society. With recent breakthroughs in medical technology, people are living longer and choosing to remain in the workforce for longer. It comes as no surprise that several distinct generations are mingling more now than ever before, and communication between these groups is increasingly important and challenging.

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    1. Be aware of different forms of communication

    Whether it is within the workforce or with friends and relatives, methods of communication between generations vary extensively. A majority of the oldest generation, known as the ‘matures’ or ‘veterans’ are retired and most likely grandparents. Face-to-face communication is preferential, similarly with the next generation known as the ‘baby boomers’. A lack of communication in person can lead veterans to feel unappreciated and offended as they tend to emphasize little importance in today’s texting and social media revolution.

    Further towards the younger generations, starting with the baby boomers, technology begins to become more acceptable as a form of communication. Generation X, third down the line, is generally comfortable with web-based communication such as conference calling, but still may resist the social movement. The youngest generation, known as Generation Y, or the ‘millennials,’ grew up around the technology and social media movement, therefore this type of web-based communication is weighed as equally respectable.

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    With such a drastic difference, especially between the matures and those of generation Y, it is important to understand the pros and cons each media of communication. While older generations prefer face-to-face communication, it can be argued that cosmopolitanism is prominent in today’s society and often it is necessary to connect with people who live either too far away to meet in person or overseas. While agreeably, communication face-to-face is a more effective way to form close, personal relationships, digital methods of communication is an equally effective way to connect with people living far away.

    Digital communication is also instantaneous. While the effort taken to meet with someone can be the source of the personal relationship, instant messaging, texting or calling is faster and generally more economical, therefore its relevance cannot be so easily ruled out. All methods of communication have pros and cons, but the more thoroughly they are understood, the easier it will be to bridge the communication gap between generations.

      Photo: stockimages

      2. Understand the relevance of formality

      We live in an era of SMS, instant messaging, colloquialisms and slang, predominantly established by the millennials. When e-mail was first introduced as a substitute for sending letters, it started off with formatting as formal as those typed and handwritten notes would have been. Consequently, it can be difficult for matures and baby boomers to accept and adapt to the progressively informal speech surrounding today’s society.

      The slang and colloquialisms used by younger generations can be perceived by older generations as uneducated and an indication of lack of effort in communication. Formal communication can appear nicer to read and carries more value in terms of effort. However it is sometimes faster and easier to use slang and abbreviations for small, less important issues, whether it’s in the workplace or with family and friends. The issue with formality presents itself through digital media, rather than face-to-face communication.

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      While being formal in every form of communication media, it should be considered whether or not it is necessary. If a relative is picking you up from an airport, it might be easier to type a quick ‘here’ text rather than a long-winded, formal explanation of the fact that you have arrived. Such an explanation can be left for a face-to-face conversation or a phone call. In regards to speech informality, it is important for the older generations to understand that most languages are fluid and continuously changing. At the same time, it is also important for younger generations to realize that these changes in the language can be challenging to adapt to.

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        Photo: stockimages

        3. Respect that values differ between generations

        It is obvious that younger generations do not share a majority of personal values that the older generations hold on to. This is obvious in forms ranging from clothing preferences to the chosen methods of communicating and forming relationships. It is very important to be aware of these differences, as to not to come off as offensive. Towards the younger generations, values tend to be less conservative than the older generations. Consequently, communication without fallout can become difficult.

        Even within families, disputes can break out over a lack of perceived respect, mainly from the younger generations. In order to avoid such situations, it is important to understand and take into consideration the differences on both ends of the generational scale. For example, in a mature’s time, unmarried, live-in partners would not have been something common or acceptable, which it now is to younger generations. While there will always be disagreement, if both sides take the time to gain an understanding of opposite opinions, it will be much easier to avoid coming off as offensive.

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          Photo: stockimages

          4. Values also differ in the workplace

          For the first time in history, four different generations appear in the workforce at the same time. While it is a great development and offers a great deal more variety than ever before, it presents its own set of challenges. Older generations, especially the matures, experience a sense of pride towards their jobs, viewing them as predominantly ways to provide for their families. Millennials will tend to stay with the same job, working their way up, as they will tend to constantly move from one job to the next.

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          Older generations can often mistake this as incompetence and lack of work ethic. However it makes sense to younger generations to keep their options flexible and extend their opportunities in the workplace. Adding to the perceived laziness of the younger generations, they also require a great deal of feedback and value peer opinions quite highly, which can be mistaken as being ‘spoon fed’ through their work. For effective communication within the workplace, these stigmas need to be understood more thoroughly from both end of the generational spectrum.

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            Photo: stockimages

            5. Rabbit ears

            The overall factor influencing effective communication across generations is the willingness to listen and learn. Having ‘rabbit ears’ will result in less disputes and more productivity in communication, both inside the workplace and outside, with relatives, strangers and friends.

            Having Rabbit ears means listening not just to what is said but how it is said. This can give both cues on topics that are sensible to discuss between generations and also helps to gain more understanding of each side’s values and opinions. It is all about listening and learning from one another.

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              Photo: stockimages

              6. Be wary of sensitive topics

              When communicating between generations, especially with strangers or people who are unfamiliar, it may be best to avoid sensitive topics such as politics and religion. The relevance of these topics in the millennial age is not the same as it was in the time of the matures, and disagreement can easily erupt. While at a dinner with unfamiliar or familiar people, nothing can make it more awkward than a sudden generational dispute about homosexuality or abortion.

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                Photo: gratisography.com

                7. Right words at the right time

                Communication can break down when wrong words are spoken at the wrong time. Diplomacy is saying the right words at the right time. In terms of communication barriers between generations, this means bringing up those sensitive topics once you know both sides of the conversation are comfortable with generational differences and are willing to accept each other’s opinions without dispute. Taking the time to reach this stage of compliance will result in the most productive discussions, since generations worth of information can be received.

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                  8. Wisdom comes with age vs the resilience of youth

                  Young people can avoid heartache by listening to the voice of experience, whereas older people can learn to “roll with the punches,” as the younger generations tend to do. This can come back to the workforce, wherein young people often move around between several jobs in their lifetime. Advice given by older people in the same field of work can be extremely valuable, especially when it comes to avoiding unprecedented failure. At the same time, the rigidity of the older generations’ work structure can find the flexibility of the younger generation beneficial.

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                  Elizabeth Andal

                  Elizabeth is a passionate writer who shares about lifestyle tips and lessons learned in life on Lifehack.

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                  Last Updated on August 12, 2020

                  When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

                  When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

                  Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

                  In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

                  How to Listen to Your Gut

                  The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

                  Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

                  1. Tune Into Your Body

                  Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

                  However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

                  Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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                  Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

                  In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

                  2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

                  Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

                  There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

                  3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

                  Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

                  As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

                  This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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                  4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

                  As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

                  Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

                  5. Challenge Your Assumptions

                  When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

                  In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

                  A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

                  6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

                  Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

                  There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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                  Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

                  Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

                  Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

                  We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

                  The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

                  We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

                  7. Trust Yourself

                  It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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                  Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

                  If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

                  The Bottom Line

                  The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

                  Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

                  More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

                  Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

                  Reference

                  [1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
                  [2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
                  [3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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