Now, more than ever, generations have greater challenges brought on by advances in technology, medicine, social media and a more connected world. Those who remember what life was like before TV, see the world differently than those who remember life just before the internet, and many who remember life before the internet cannot fathom how those who have never known anything else perceive things. Perhaps no difference is as noticeable as how each of these generations communicates with one another, and within their generation. With these differences in mind, I’ve attempted to create some useful guidelines to help young and old alike communicate more effectively.
Older generations must learn to embrace rather than fight modern technology and learn as much as possible to stay in communication. Not only does this help keep the gray cells in our brain working, it also is extremely useful for keeping in touch with our younger generations who are “digital natives”.
Some of my friends are proud of the fact that they’re not involved in social media, email, cell phones and other technologies. Some even scoff at those who do—feeling as though they’re wasting their time, rude, or even uninformed. The truth is, we cut ourselves off from keeping up with our families and others by not being open to new technology—as much communication is occurring on the very mediums many hate and refuse to learn more about.
On the other side of the coin, young people must be mindful and set aside more time for one-on-one communication with those who did not grow up with the luxury of today’s technology and may find it confusing. Being patient with different minds and skill sets is important in developing multi-generational relationship. By encouraging and assisting older adults in dealing with the technology we use every day, we open channels of communication.
That’s not to say that many younger folks aren’t already doing this. I know many younger people who are wonderful at working with the older generation, teaching them the simplicity and subtleties of technology. Many of my friends rely on their grandchildren for help on the computer or on their smartphones
The greatest need—on both sides—is the development (or brushing up on) good listening skills. A common desire among all people is to be heard—this is true among every generation.
When debating or engaging in a discussion, we often fail to listen. We are too busy forming our rebuttal or waiting for the other person to stop talking. We must make the other person feel heard. An effective way to do this is to repeat your understanding of their viewpoint—whether you agree or disagree—before responding. For example, “So you think all schools should require students to wear school uniforms.” While it may sound simple, this can show them that you are in fact listening and defuse the situation.
Unlike the parent and young child relationships in the formative years, it is imperative that we learn to accept a difference of an opinion in a calm and understanding way. Agree to disagree if you must. Being able to communicate respectfully and intently listening is essential in life. At work. At home. Or with friends. It is a skill that will not only make life easier but much more enjoyable for all of us!
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