Saturday, 27 June 2009

I almost called you old...

I've had a couple of conversations recently on the topic of communication and generation differences.

I've done a couple of audio conversations (not *quite* interviews) for a work thing - the first on GenY and another on Online Collaboration. I love this stuff, and am keen to learn (and share!) as much as I can.

On Father's Day (ie a little under a week ago) I spent some time with Mum & Dad and we ended up talking about online networks and Dad (who is far from a luddite) said that these things don't really interest him as he's always just kept himself to himself. Okay, but what about when you are looking for some help to do something on your Triumph motorbike, or an issue with your mobile phone - there will be online communities or networks that will be perfect to help you with that.

Interestingly, since they moved house last year, Dad has been great at getting to know his neighbours, helping cut trees & build fences. Something that a younger generation might not do. Mum has started playing with Facebook a bit. Seems to be enjoying it and can't quite see the point (yet), but not giving up on it yet. Mum & Dad are either late Baby Boomers or Generation Jones, I'm (just) a part of GenY. Positively, neither were saying "it's wrong, rubbish and shouldn't be allowed"!

I think the ability to interact with people is one I'm relearning through a number of ways - but it's all about dialogue, not monologue.

In a meeting at work the other day we were reflecting on an event we'd put on with one of the corporate directors. We'd arranged an interview as well as questions from the floor. The interview had some business topics and some personal ones. We felt it was right that people get to know this director as a person, not just a Boss. One of the questions was "brown sauce of tomato sauce". When we were talking about it, a Baby Boomer said she felt there were too many personal questions, not enough work-related. I agreed to a point, but then the comment was made "and as for that question about the sauce...". That was it, for me. I felt the need to explain that actually people want to know that these guys are human as well. We put them on a pedestal and say "listen to my edicts", but actually they are people, with real lives, making real decisions, right?

I had to stop myself saying "my generation doesn't care about hierarchy or how important someone should be - we care about who they are (at least I do!) and what drives them". I almost said "I guess we're just from a different era". I'm glad I did. Mostly.

So, the whole experience has made me think a little more that I need to be inclusive - that communication I come up with, or help develop has to meet the needs of a diverse audience. While I don't want to water things down until they are meaningless, neither do I want to prefer one generation over another, just 'cos one of them is so stuck in it's ways that it'll never change (;-P - that's a pale attempt at irony, incase you missed it!).

Anyway, what do you think? Have you had any similar experiences or experienced something that connected with you & colleagues of a different generation? Leave a comment and share your story!

1 comment:

Peter Day said...

This whole issue is a very great challenge, not just in the workplace and family, but also in church life. You said "it's all about dialogue, not monologue."

I think that is the key to building between generations. And giving others the freedom to talk... rather than just speaking about what interests you, allowing others to talk about what interests them... and then I have found connections can be made.

Such as... the quiet old lady in the church who is passionate about football and tennis... or the young man who has just started learning to the delight of the elder brother from Scotland.

If we don't listen we never learn about a person and there is nothing to connect with. But if we do listen, cross-generational friendships can form.