The attendees were there to learn how they could communicate more successfully. All “inside” folks, some of them arrived fairly frustrated with their office mates.
When I asked them what they think prevents honest, direct, clear communications, one of the first responses was: generational differences. There was a round of hearty agreement, much like an amen chorus.
Generational differences. Seriously.
Here is my very simple take on this: Every generation wants to be treated respectfully. The obstacle is us! When we communicate with them as if they are lacking in ability because they’re too old or too young, we create the challenge.
To me, the mere fact that someone is young or old is never the problem. It’s our judgement of what they know or don’t know, that is. When we come to them with respect, when we come to them expecting they’ll add value to the pool of understanding, obstacles disappear.
Communicating, without generational obstacles, means getting excited about different viewpoints. It means we stop being fearful that someone younger may know more than we do and be right, or someone older may know more than we do and be right. It means we stay focused on the value the other person’s distinct viewpoint brings to the best business decision.
The argument about the generations reminds me of the differences between “new” love and “mature” love (which has nothing to do with age, just how long a couple has known each other). Passionate new love is exciting but is it more satisfying than lovers of 40 years? Both have their viewpoints and their beauty.
You may want to check out Meeting Professionals International’s One+ magazine, September 2010, Generation Why article for even more on this subject.
What do you think? Was it an older or younger person who responded generational differences? Does being a top performer have anything to do with age?