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How to March to Today’s Multigenerational Drum

How to March to Today’s Multigenerational Drum

If you ask your grandparents about life when they first stepped out on their own, you will get a very different picture than the experience of today’s youth. Changing technologies, economies, and expectations can also bring about differences in generational thinking. While looking at each generation as a whole lumps everyone together and removes the individual; it is helpful for those looking at the overall themes to better understand how we can relate to people from different eras. Sometimes, heated discussions and conflicts are brought about because of this lack of understanding of underlying currents that are absent in your own generation.

There are five generational groups that we will reference in this article.

  1. Traditionalists / Silent Generation (born 1925 – 1945)
  2. Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
  3. Gen X (born 1965 – 1980)
  4. Gen Y / Millennials (Born 1981 – 2000)
  5. Gen Z / Boomlets (Born after 2001)

Each group, as a general rule, has different themes and outlooks on life. Lack of understanding can create conflict with younger generations in several key areas.

1) Financial Independence

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    Many Mellenniums may find themselves still living at home, or at least leveraging their parents for financial support, well into adulthood. According to the New York Times, one in five people in their twenties and early thirties are still living with their parents. This is a big difference between other generations. Most Baby Boomers and Traditionalists moved out much earlier – usually to get married. The inability to cut the apron strings today could be due, in part, to the fact that many entry-level jobs are often not able to cover basic living expenses; especially in some urban areas where the cost of living outpaces many starting salaries. In fact, a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute found that entry-level hourly wages  for college graduates from 2000 -2013 fell on average at a rate of 8.1 percent among women, and 6.7 percent among men. Many people are also delaying marriage and staying in school longer due to conomic reasons.

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    Generation X and Baby Boomer parents may be tempted to compare their children’s lack of financial independence to when they were married, working, and on their own at a much earlier age. However, it is hard to correlate today’s job opportunities and financial freedoms to the ones they experienced when they were in their early twenties, due to the constantly changing workplace. Many older parents have a stronger work ethic. They have accumulated wealth over the years and are now able to financially support their children. Unfortunately, their kids are all too happy to take advantage of this.

    2) Work Ethic / Company Loyalty

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      Many older generations tend to label people in the Millennial group as less hard-working than they were in their early twenties. They do this because this younger generation is more inclined to push back against a typical “9 to 5” work day. Many Millennials value flexibility and embrace working in an environment that is more conducive to molding around their needs, rather than forcing them to conform to the needs of the organization.

      However, just because older generations were polishing their shoes and settling into their desks at 7:45 a.m. when they were in their 20s, does not mean that the Millennial workers don’t work just as many hours. Many people from older generations feel that if you aren’t in the office under supervision, then you aren’t working. Younger generations do not embrace this mindset. They are much more inclined to take their work home with them. So, while the Baby Boomer generation worked a typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday, the Millennial generations may work from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., then take the afternoon off before starting up again from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Millennial workers are much more likely to work remotely, and may feel less worried about making appearances at the office. To them, as long as the work gets done well, it doesn’t matter if they do it during regular business hours or after a relaxing dinner.

      People who are in their early twenties are also typically less trusting of corporations than their predecessors. Older generations wanted to be hired by a good company, slowly building a lifetime legacy there by paying their dues and climbing the corporate ladder. Many Traditionalist and Baby Boomers remark that in their twenties, they simply felt lucky to have a job and did not expect the organization to cater to their needs. Millennials, now in their early twenties, have watched companies perform downsizes; and have seen that their predecessors’ loyalty was often rewarded by corporate cuts for more profitable numbers on Wall Street. They may even have experienced this first hand by watching a parent lose their job with a company they assumed would provide them a good living. In turn, they are often much more comfortable with changing careers and companies, less loyal to their employers, more comfortable pushing back against authority figures, and more willing to leave if they aren’t happy in their current job. They may also build parallel careers, work multiple jobs simultaneously, and have more than one specialty.

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      3) Chief Motivators

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        Today’s youth are motivated by different factors than previous generations. Traditionalists were more motivated by security and self worth. Boomers were more motivated with money and status. Generation Xers wanted more time off and were motivated by a balanced work / life balance after watching their overworked parents. Generation Y seems to be motivated by doing work that is meaningful. They also enjoy work that allows them to express their individuality and maintain a personal life. Millennials are less impressed with the status quo, and instead want to feel a strong sense of passion for what they do with their lives. They also tend to be more globally focused than their predecessors due to growing up during a time when news and information are instantly shared with ease via the globally connected Internet.

        4) Education

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          A college degree, or even a graduate degree, is much more common in the Millennial Generation than in the past. According to findings from the Pew Research Center’s survey of 2,002 adults (supplemented by a Pew Research analysis of economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau), today’s Millennials are the best-educated generation in history. A third (34%) have a bachelor’s degree. When you compare the Traditional generation of 25-32 year-olds in 1965, only 13% had a college degree. This percentage expanded to 24% in the late 1970s and 1980s, when the Boomers were in their early 20s. This means that Millennials also have more competition from other highly-educated peers for jobs, and are more likely to delay launching their career until they have obtained a competitive degree.

          5) Communication Style

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            Millennials, and the upcoming Generation Z, are the technology gurus. While other generations remember the life before the Internet, the Generation Y kids obtained a working knowledge of technology very early in their lives. However, this can lead to them preferring e-mail, texting, instant messages, and Facebook exchanges over face-to-face communication. They are always plugged in. Most of them find it very hard to disconnect from their online world.

            6) Knowledge

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              Today’s youth have grown up with the ability to research anything with the click of their Google app. This means that instead of pouring over library books trying to find their answers, they are now easily found with a quick topic search. Millennials are able to further expand their hobbies and interests much easier than previous generations. For example, instead of pouring over library books or shadowing an expert, you can now find How-To videos and step-by-step instructional articles online within seconds. You can instantly learn how to make everything from home-made wine to how to up-cycle old pallets. Due to the ease of obtaining information about nearly everything online, Millennials are much more well-versed in many different hobbies and passions. They enjoy an eclectic variety of D.I.Y. projects, and are quick to try new things due to this ease of learning.

              7) Respect for Authority

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                Millennials are more comfortable with a fast-paced, changing world, and have no problem pushing back against authority or voicing concerns. Many older generations accuse them of not respecting authority. This is not exactly correct. Millennials have great respect for authority, but unlike previous generations, they don’t respect authority figures just because of their title. For Millennials, respect is not automatically given. It must be earned. For most Millennials, respect for their managers is the main reason they stay with their job. Coincidentally, the dissatisfaction of working for their manager is also the main reason that they quit. Many companies have adapted their approach to leadership when dealing with Mellennials. Management has evolved into a more relational role, rather than an authoritarian one, in order to lower their job turn-over rate.

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                Millennials are less worried about formal dress-code, and more interested in flexibility and new challenges. They would rather be traveling on new adventures than pressing their pinstripe suit. If they are put into the more traditional roles of their predecessors, they may become bored if the work does not continually push them into new areas of discovery.

                8) Family

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                  People from the Generation Y stage are also delaying marriage in favor of launching careers or furthering their education. Millennials are focused on making a good income before settling down with a family. The typical man now marries for the first time at age 28 and the typical women at age 26. This is about five years older than in 1970 (for both genders). Women are also delaying having children. In Western, Northern, and Southern Europe, first-time mothers are on average 26 to 29 years old, up from 23 to 25 years at the start of the 1970s.

                  Many Baby Boomers and Traditionalists feel that Generation X-ers and the Millennial Generation don’t want to grow up. Some of that may be true, but it stems from how the Boomers raised their children. Many Boomer parents tended to coddle their children more than past generations. Some Baby Boomers even use their own financial success to ensure their kids don’t experience adversity. Millennials, after watching their parents work so hard, are often not willing to suffer the long hours and general stress that they watched play out when they were growing up. Therefore, they tend to lean toward spending more time with their family in favor of less financial affluence. And, if Mom and Dad haven’t turned their old room into a theater room yet, Millennials see no reason why they shouldn’t hang out there at least a little bit more and delay the intimidating stresses of adulthood.

                  While generational gaps show us how very different it is to be in your mid-twenties today, these decades apart also illuminate how social, economic, and educational trends have changed over the years. Whether you’re a Millennialist, Traditionalist, Boomer, or a misunderstood Generation X-er, you still have more commonalities than differences.

                  Each generation can learn from their past. We can also pull older family and friends into current technologies and the fast-paced present. Understanding and celebrating these differences, and learning from one another, is the best way to leverage the strengths of each era and become better individuals.

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                  Sarah Hansen

                  A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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                  Last Updated on January 15, 2019

                  How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

                  How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

                  Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

                  In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

                  Step right up, don’t be shy!

                  Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

                  The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

                  Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

                  Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
                  So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

                  A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

                  Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

                  Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

                  When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

                  Culturally Conditioned

                  We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

                  I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

                  The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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                  Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

                  Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

                  Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

                  1. Broadens Your Network

                  After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

                  2. Improves Your Communication Skills

                  I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

                  Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

                  3. Continually Learning

                  So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

                  Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

                  4. Increases Self Confidence

                  Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

                  Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

                  So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

                  How to Talk to Strangers

                  Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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                  1. Say Hello

                  Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

                  Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

                  Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

                  2. Ask About Them

                  Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

                  You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

                  As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

                  3. Just Do It

                  One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

                  When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

                  Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

                  4. Don’t Take It Personal

                  One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

                  When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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                  5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

                  I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

                  One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

                  6. Detach

                  A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

                  Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

                  7. Share Your Stories

                  Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

                  To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

                  So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

                  8. Give a Compliment

                  Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

                  When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

                  9. Relax Your Body Language

                  If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

                  When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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                  If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

                  10. Practice, Practice, Practice

                  Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

                  Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

                  After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

                  The Bottom Line

                  As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

                  There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

                  Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

                  Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

                  More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

                  Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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