I’m sure there are many reasons for poor communication in this complex world of ours, especially in the U.S. during what appears to be one of the most chaotic times in our history. For the first time, our workplace consists of four generations at one time. This fact is often overlooked when searching for communication challenges.
One of the most obvious, but often ignored, differences between people is their age. Does a person’s age influence how they respond to a message? Absolutely! While hierarchy, ethnic culture and gender have tended to dominate prior discussions on tailoring communication, research by academics and practitioners on so-called “Generation X” and their successors suggests that when communicating, equal attention ought to be paid to age differences.
Research data on this subject is plentiful. However, the following Generational Gem may well simplify the challenge of communicating across generations.
The Little Old Lady
There was once a very nice lady who was a little old-fashioned. She was planning a week’s vacation in Wisconsin at a particular campground she hadn’t visited in decades. She decided to write ahead to make certain of the accommodations in advance.
Utmost in her mind were the toilet facilities. However, due to her sheltered upbringing, she couldn’t bring herself to write the word “toilet” in a letter. After considerable deliberation, she settled on “Bathroom Commode.” However, when she wrote it down, it still sounded too forward to her, so she wrote the letter to the campground and referred to the bathroom commode as the “BC.” She simply asked if the campground had their own “BC.”
Upon receiving the letter, the young campground manager was baffled by the euphemism so he showed the letter around to several other campers, but they couldn’t decipher it either. Finally the campground owner figured the woman must be referring to the location of the local Baptist Church so he sat down and wrote:
I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but I now take pleasure in informing you that a “BC” is located just nine miles north of the campground and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit it’s quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly, but no doubt you will be pleased to know that a great number of people take their lunches along and make a day of it. They usually arrive early and leave late.
“The last time my wife and I went was six years ago, and it was so crowded we had to stand up the whole time we were there. It may interest you to know that right now there is a supper being planned to raise money to buy more seats. They are going to hold the fund raiser in the basement of the “BC.” I would like to say it pains me very much not to be able to go more regularly, but it is surely no lack of desire on my part. As we grow older, it seems to be more of an effort, particularly in cold weather. If you decide to come to our campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time, sit with you, and introduce you to all the other folks. Remember, this is a friendly community.”
For some reason, the elderly woman made other plans!