Engaged Communications For Different Generations - Part One of Two

As technology advances, verbal communications between us diminishes. We aren't talking as much as we used to, we aren't expressing ourselves as much as we used to and we are becoming isolated from each other despite that fact that we are connected to more people than ever before - albeit electronically.

Among the many reasons why this is occurring, apart from the aforementioned increased use of technology, is that we sometimes don't understand the various communication styles of the five generations. 

Each generation thinks slightly differently, behaves differently, has different values, and importantly communicates differently. And we sometimes don't take the time to find out how to communicate to a different generation.

Here is a (very) short explanation as to why we communicate differently. Why am I explaining this to you, because we should always establish why to get a better understanding of a situation which allows us to connect and problem solve much easier.

Traditionalists – Born prior to 1946

Most of their communication was written and verbal, either face-to-face, telephone or letters/memos. This group will listen to every word that you say and if you say the wrong thing to them, they will become quiet.

Their communication style is very formal, most prefer that you use their surname rather than their first name, they get dressed up when going into the public, manners are very important to them.

Also known as the forgotten generation, they are silent on their life experiences. Why, because they lived a hard life, struggling during and following the war.

They want you to indirectly acknowledge their struggle. If you think that you have said the wrong thing to a Traditionalist because they have fallen silent, say to them “You must have had some wonderful experiences in your lifetime.” Most times they will simply smile at you and re-engage in communication.

Respect them and they will respect you.

Baby-Boomers – Born 1956 to 1965

May I start by apologising for my generation. We want to know everything, and when you think that you have told us everything we will still ask for more detail. Why, because we strive for knowledge and understanding.

Our thirst for knowledge is unquenchable. And we had to read books to gain this knowledge. Most of us learned the hard way, by rote learning, going over and over the same thing to ensure that it was lodged in our memory.

We wanted to get ahead in life so that we could give our children what we didn’t have ourselves. We didn’t go without, we just wanted more. We worked hard and want to tell you that we did. We like to express how we are feeling about a situation; we are true communicators.

Not only will we listen to what you say, we will watch your body-language to ensure that your actions matched your words.

If you say the wrong thing to us, we will immediately tell you so. And we may even tell you a little more than you would like to hear. Honesty in communication is what we live by. This can make us seem rude, bullish, and arrogant, we generally aren’t.

However, there is a small group within the BB’s that I like to refer to as the matriarchs and the patriarchs. This is not a term of endearment.

The matriarchs are the women in the workplace who you will never change, they are set in their ways. We spend far too much time trying to change this group from their inappropriate behaviour rather than using them to our advantage, on change committees.

This group will keep the younger ones grounded, they will stop groupthink and have wonderful institutional knowledge. To engage with the matriarchs, tell them that you value their input and continually ask them “What do you think?”.

Then we have the patriarchs, the men who will tell us that our rules, policies, processes and practices are ridiculous. They will also tell us how to do our job. You will not be able to move this small group on unless you ask us for our ideas.

To engage with us, ask us “How would you do this?” We will tell you the way it should be done. Don’t agree with us or tell us that our idea is a good one otherwise we will show you how to introduce the new direction, just say “That is another way.” If you say anything else, we will continue to tell you our ideas.

You will not move this group forward unless you ask them for their thoughts because for them, their ideas are like an emotion. Acknowledging an emotion disarms it.

Tomorrow I will cover the next three generations.