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Building Relationships Across Generations
Issues of race, gender, culture, and sexual orientation have dominated the diversity arena for some time. However, the unsung hero of difficulty, communication across generations is often fraught with assumptions, frustrations, and misunderstanding.
You can learn fascinating things about other people if you choose to do so.
The environment that surrounded you as you grew up shaped your life in more ways than you may realize. World events, like wars, depression, or conversely economic prosperity, shape generations. So does technological change--did you grow up with the radio, TV, computer, or iPod as your electronic of choice? Music, politics of the time, ideas about what it means to be a family--these too shape how different generations view and appreciate the life around them.
Translated into workplace terms, this often means different values, ideas, work ethics, attitudes toward authority, and outlooks on life. Though the U.S. workplace culture values speed ("time is money") and hard work, just how fast you work and what is hard work, will be subject to generational interpretation.
This means the possible combinations of inter-generational
conflict can be great. Common complaints you hear from older
generations about younger generations are that they are
speed-obsessed, too casual and informal, unappreciative of
traditional ways of doing things, and technology dependent
(as in, they don't value face-to-face communication enough).
On the flip side, you can hear younger generations
complaining that older generations are out-of-date, stuck in
their ways, too stiff, and completely computer unsavvy (as
in, they won't IM with me and take too long to respond to my
emails). Many generations feel like they are not respected by
other generations, and often that they are discriminated
against because of their age (age bias).
OK, now that we've established that, let's get right into the best ways to push past generational barriers and build strong intergenerational relationships. We've divided the strategies into mindset tips (how to approach cross-generational differences) and practical tips (the small things you can do during a conversation to improve your communication).
Approach with Interest. Approach
generational differences with interest, not fear or
negativity. Take interest in the interests of others. You can
learn fascinating things about other people if you choose to
Be flexible as to the
means of your communication (face-to-face, email, etc.)
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