Generation Communication Gap: Do You Really Know that “Generation Y” College Freshman You Call Family?

I recently read a very interesting article that focused on a possible motive for many of the major challenges we’re facing today. Chaotic examples of disruptive scenarios were shared from the area of politics, sports, the economy, today’s workplace, entertainment, employment, health care concerns, immigration, education, war, and family structure to name a few. It suddenly became quite apparent that there’s a growing communication problem within our society today, and it’s impacting just about everything we do.

The importance of good communication skills has long been acknowledged as a necessary skill for anyone striving for success. Our society has recognized, taught, debated and focused on this skill set for as long as I can remember. Then why the sudden epidemic leading to chaos in so many situations? The author suggested that it might be more than just communication skills. He suggests that it might very well be based on more of a “generational” clash than on a lack of communication skills. True, the ability to converse with one another is critical today more than ever as global cultures clash, technology advances at a tremendous speed, and the world becomes “flatter” by the minute.

However, is our lack of ability to converse successfully a result of declining communication skills or simply a more vivid example of our society existing of so many living generations who simply don’t make the time or effort to understand one another? And yet we’re forced to live and work together, making critical decisions impacting those around us who may very well have no idea as to what may have influenced our decision-making process.

This is a listing of recent generations for individuals born in the United States. Dates are approximate, as recognized by demographers. As you review the list, try to visualize someone you may know from each of the generations.

2001-Present – New Silent Generation or Generation Z
1980-2000 – Millennials or Generation Y
1965-1979 – Generation X
1946-1964 – Baby Boom
1925-1945 – Silent Generation
1900-1924 – G.I. Generation

As you review the list of those you visualized, think about the many vast differences in each generation. Consider their childhoods, parents, education, technology, politics, religious influences, work ethics, global exposure, etc. Obviously, there are tremendous differences in each generation, and yet today we’re forced to interact in a number of various scenarios. For instance, my grandchildren were exposed to computer operation and speaking Spanish in kindergarten. At that same age, I majored in sliding my nap rug across the classroom floor on my stomach, and the highlight of my day was devouring graham crackers and milk every afternoon.

Maybe this author has struck a critical chord here that demands closer scrutiny. As a society, we’ve acknowledged generation gaps, written books about them extensively and even discuss them in the classroom. However, have we really taken these studies seriously and made an effort to understand how we differ in so many ways from one generation to the next? Do we seriously realize the negative consequences that might result if these gaps continue to widen? If, after reading the following information, you realize the need to broaden your perspective on this critical issue, seek out the numerous studies and books available on the subject by going to Google and/or for further references.

Just in case you weren’t feeling old enough today, just read this. Each year the staff at Beloit College in Wisconsin puts together a list to try to give the faculty a sense of the mindset of this year’s incoming freshman. Here are a few points from this year’s list.

  • They never “rolled down” a car window.
  • They have grown up with bottled water.
  • Pete Rose has never played baseball.
  • Rap music has always been mainstream.
  • They were born the year Harvard Law Review Editor Barack Obama announced he might run for office some day.
  • Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
  • Al Gore has always been running for president or thinking about it.
  • They grew up in Wayne’s World.
  • Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
  • MTV has never featured music videos.
  • The space program has never really caught their attention except in disasters.
  • They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
  • The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.
  • Dilbert has always been ridiculing cubicle culture.
  • There has never been a Berlin Wall.

It’s a wonder we can even speak to each other. And, interestingly enough, no one generation is more correct or incorrect than another. They’re all just enormously different from one another, and we’d best take immediate action to close those major gaps. What are you going to do?

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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