There’s much talk about what it’s like to have four generations in the workplace and how it affects communication. How does it affect your business? What exactly is the problem?
So people are of different age groups. They speak the same language, but may struggle reaching an understanding. This is nothing new. What is the big deal? The big deal is we didn’t experience this cross-generational problem in the past. This is the first time where four generations are working side by side. It’s one thing when your parents or grandparents sit at home and complain to you about how young people today don’t get it or that they want everything handed to them. If you pay attention at all, you brush it off. That’s just grandpa complaining as usual. I know I’ve been hearing similar comments from my parents and grandparents since I can remember. In the workplace, generational differences impact communication.
The reason for all the talk among business people has to do with understanding how to communicate when each generation is very active in business. With technology and medicine, we are living longer, remain more active and are retiring much later in life. The Baby Boomers have been making or changing the rules about what aging looks like as they reach each new decade. The Gen X and Millennials have grown up in a world where rapid technological advances are commonplace. Those younger still are already impacting the business world like never before because they are tech babies and demand to be heard. The challenge is communicating in a way that resonates with each group and how to provide learning opportunities that appeal to cross-generational teams. Could it be the problem is not really about age? After all, two generations or four, if you are human you are interacting with people of all ages and finding ways to communicate. Effective communication starts within yourself. What are you trying to say and why?
Before you can communicate effectively with others, you must know why you want to communicate and what results you expect from the exchange. Every form of communication has a purpose. We think we’re communicating clearly.
Photo courtesy of Phaitoon/Freedigitalphotos.com
Why do you think the baby in the picture is crying? Ever had a crying baby in your life and couldn’t figure out why they were crying? Case in point. The baby thinks you are an expert at baby talk and you are wondering why on earth this baby won’t stop crying. Major communication breakdown.
We have more ways to communicate than ever before and we can’t seem to communicate effectively.
Most certainly, being of one generation or another can have an impact on how we communicate, but real communication is about much more than when we were born and social influence. Improving communication takes commitment. How do you communicate?
What steps can you follow to improve communication?
Understand yourself first. Take time to gain clarity on who you are, deep down inside. What do you stand for? What values do you possess? What do you believe in so strongly you are not willing to comprise on ever? If you don’t understand who you are, how can you expect people to understand what you mean? Communication allows people to get to know you. At every touch point of interaction you communicate something about yourself. Are you communicating who you are and what you expect clearly?
Understand your communication identity? A quick search on www.dictionary.com for identity returns this definition: “the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another”. Our identity impacts how we communicate. In the first step you gained clarity on what makes you uniquely you. Now it’s time to understand what is your communication identity?
When communicating, are you being true to yourself or is it based on what you believe the other person wants to hear? Do you really mean what you say and say what you mean? Are you concerned or afraid to speak your truth? Do you tend to agree with someone when you know you have a better solution?
Are you proficient in using the many methods of communication available? In a conversation, what form of communication will you be using and who will be receiving the communication?
Each method of communication and the tools used to communicate will have an impact on the other person’s response.
Determine the purpose for communication and consider possible outcomes. You’ve taken the time to understand your values, what you stand for and how it impacts communication. Before engaging in a conversation of substance or importance, determine what the reason for contact is and what you hope to accomplish as a result of the conversation? We give so little thought to why we communicate. Do you really know what you want to happen?
Perhaps your goal is to speak with an employee about their performance. The obvious goal is for the employee to improve performance. You consider this the desired outcome for the communication. However, what is the underlying reason for the meeting and what outcome? Are you meeting because you’re genuinely vested in the person’s development and know performance is an issue? Are you planning to fire the employee and are documenting the problems? Are you willing to give them a chance to improve? Each of the previous questions has a different objective for communicating and will impact what you say and how you say it. It will impact the words chosen, tone, and length of the conversation and how it is received.
Understand your purpose and consider outcomes, before engaging in communication.
Which method of communication or tool is best? I know people in my circle who will answer to a text immediately, but call them and they don’t answer the phone. Others are the opposite, they prefer a call. Their argument is they can get to the purpose for the call in a shorter amount of time than texting. I have other business people with whom I communicate via Skype or other apps. We are as individual in our communication preferences as we are as people. If I know the preferred communication method for a person or company, I can shorten the response time. The method for the communication should be considered for its impact. There are conversations where meeting face to face is the best option. Sharing something negative via text or email is like breaking up with someone via text. Can be seen as lack of courage. If you are in business, staying informed on advances in communication tools can improve how you communicate.
Understand who you are as a communicator, your true reason for the communication and find the best way to deliver your message so it is well received.