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Communication Across Generations: Making It Work

Life would be much simpler if we all communicated in the same way, but we don’t. Different generations, while they may all essentially want the same things, certainly don’t communicate the same way.

Life would be much simpler if we all communicated in the same way, but we don’t. Different generations, while they may all essentially want the same things, certainly don’t communicate the same way.

Whether you are trying to recruit new members, communicate in the workplace, or market your product or services, effective communication is essential to reaching your goal. Knowing how each generation communicates will bring better understanding and more effective messaging that results in a better bottom line for your business or organization.

LEARN THEIR STYLE

Baby Boomers

Despite many of them being in authority positions themselves, Boomers do like to question authority and you should expect them to do so. It’s valuable to them to work as part of a team. They prefer face to face communication, but not necessarily in the form of an official meeting. Don’t call Boomers “old” and do not discount their years of experience, show them you value it.

Gen Xers

Gen Xers tend to be skeptical, so communicate with them directly, don’t make them guess what you might not be telling them. Be upfront and transparent. Feel free to challenge what they say; they’ll probably do the same to you. Gen Xers like feedback, so give it freely. When you give feedback, do so in a way that let’s them know they still have autonomy. They don’t want to wait; they’re busy, so give feedback shortly after an issue comes up while it’s still relevant to them, and be available if you need to talk to them.

Millennials

Gen Y is used to being part of the conversation; keeping communication collaborative is the way to go. Expect them to work well in teams. Like Gen X, Millennials are always looking for feedback, if you aren’t giving it to them, they may think you didn’t notice their work. Continual feedback shows them their work is meaningful. Feel free to text or email Gen Y, but avoid phone calls if possible; they’re seen as invasive.

LEARN THEIR LANGUAGE

Speak how your target audience speaks, use their everyday language to reach them. Use it correctly.

The mother of a friend of mine got into trouble on Facebook not too long ago because she believed “LOL” to stand for “Lots of Love.” Might seem like an innocent mistake, but no one was laughing out loud when she was putting “LOL” on comments about someone’s husband’s cancer or someone else’s broken leg. The good news, she’s been corrected and learned a valuable lesson about communicating with Millennials.

Each generation’s jargon is formed by pop culture of their time, so sure a might Millennial know what you mean if you say “Egad,” but it’s not something they would necessarily say themselves, and therefore that message won’t reach Gen Y in the same way it reaches Baby Boomers. “Woot” is commonly used among my Gen Y friends. A gamer term originally used by players of the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons that meant “Wow, loot” has been shortened to “woot” and now generally means excitement. “Woot” resonates with Millennials in a way it will never work on Baby Boomers, even if they can understand what it means.

If you want your messages to speak to all generations simultaneously, make sure you understand and are aware of what generational jargon you may be using and eliminate it.

You don’t need to learn a whole new language or talk more slowly to be understood by someone 20 years older or younger than you, but being sensitive to the differences in communication styles and language will make you a more effective communicator.

Knowing styles and lingo is one step, but the best way to break down communication barriers is to communicate; start a conversation, no matter how you do it.

Take the first step towards your future.

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