FOMO— Lit.*— Meme**: If you take a poll of words young folks don’t expect their elders to know, surely a few of these would come up. And that’s fine, because when you think back to when we were kids, we had our own lingo.
Language evolves. Generations evolve. But one thing is constant–the importance of communication. And yet, although we may not be speaking the same language as many of the younger folks, there are ways to ensure we’re communicating effectively.

Listen and Empathize

It’s easy to get caught up in our own feelings and perspectives— not fully absorbing all of what is being told. Whatever a young person has chosen to talk about, is important to them. If they initiate a conversation or need a sounding board for an issue (not requiring our permission nor our approval), it’s a great sign they respect us or our opinion. It’s also a sign we should sit back and give them our full attention. Our behavior is contagious. Everyone wants to feel their point of view is understood. We must practice active listening and do our best to empathize. Often an effective way to assure someone he’s been heard and understood, is to paraphrase his issues and point of view. This is a technique employed by FBI hostage negotiators, and is an effective communication tool—not only with younger people, but with anyone, particularly when we have conflicting POV’s. It keeps us on track. Rather than composing our own opinion when the other person is talking, we must listen. Many young people arrive at great solutions on their own–ones we can readily support—they just need someone to listen and bounce ideas off. Kids today are a lot savvier than in the past. Their access to information, media, art, music, etc. is unprecedented—it provides them with insight that would have been unexpected of past generations. Playing the role of an empathetic listener is an effective way to provide important guidance and encourage those we care about to return for future wisdom.

Technology Rules

I’ve heard people criticize their grandchildren texting them as an inappropriate way to communicate. While I love hearing from my grandchildren, in many cases texting makes sense. Understanding current means of communication for younger people is important. Some kids hardly ever call their friends. They’re either texting, or snapchatting, or Facetiming. This is foreign to many of my generation, but to busy younger people, it’s natural. If we’re getting a text from a teen age grandchild, I look at it as a sign they are thinking about us. We can even take it as an opportunity to set up a time to talk on the phone for a full discussion. By discouraging younger people from texting and forcing them to use the medium we are most comfortable with, we may discourage communication. With loved ones, whom we don’t see often, Facetiming may be a great option, for those of us with Smart Phones. If unfamiliar with Facetiming, almost any young person can show us the ropes.

Learn and Lead

FOMO stands for the Fear of Missing Out. It’s a common phrase used by young people to describe the feeling of not wanting to miss out on the fun that our friends and family may be having. Everyone experiences this feeling, but the youth have given it a clever word to quickly describe it. When hearing a young person using words we don’t understand, we may experience something similar to FOMO, but fear not—the youth LOVES teaching our generation all the fun words and phrases they come up with. So, the next time you hear a word you aren’t familiar with, just ask. This is a great way to show you’re genuinely interested in them, making them more likely to want to listen to you. Our willingness to understand what’s important to other generations, draws us closer. Being a good listener, and showing interest in learning the priorities of our loved ones (at any age) builds trust and opens communication. If we fail to listen, it is unlikely younger people will seek our opinions or advise. One of my greatest joys is having one of my granddaughters come to me for advice on advancing in their chosen fields.

It may seem like communicating with youth is akin to cracking the enigma code, but in truth, our kids and grandchildren can and will be receptive if given the leadership, empathy and love that only we can provide. TTYL! (Talk To You Later)

*Lit is how some young folks describe something that is awesome, or “on fire”. “It’s lit!”

**Meme is an internet joke usually using pictures that young people love to share with one another. It usually communicates some sort of collective feeling or situational humor.

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