I was at an event recently, sitting at a table with other professionals of varying ages. We were discussing the differences in the current generation from previous generations. One of the executives there responded, somewhat tongue in cheek, “This is all because soccer moms.”
Of course, no offense to any soccer moms. But we’ve definitely gone through a generational shift. In days past, nobody got a trophy except the winner. And now, everyone gets a trophy for participation.
Now you may love that or you may hate that. But the point is, if we’re not careful, not being aware of differences like that can derail communication situations across generations, and lead to unsuccessful results.
Someone who is sixty thinks and feels very differently than someone who is twenty. Of course, you can substitute any two different ages in there, and it still holds true.
Obviously, you can’t control society and how changes happen over time. But what you can control is how YOU take responsibility for that situation when you’re in it.
If I’m watching someone’s body language, and I can see that they’re no longer engaged in the conversation for some reason, there’s a Sandler Rule that applies.
“I might be wrong, but I get the sense that I may have upset you. Can we take a minute and address that? I would hate for that to goof up the rest of our meeting.”
Of course, the most important part of the rule is “gently.” How you say the words is just as important as what the words are.
I live in Oklahoma, a part of the country where you’re not going to get kicked out anywhere very often. If you planned on an hour, they’ll give you an hour. They may have made up their minds five minutes in that they’re not going to do business with you, but they’ll be too nice to let you know.
That’s one reason this is so important! In all communication situations, especially cross-generational ones, you have to take full responsibility for observing the body language and tone of the other party, then respond appropriately. That’s the key to successful communication.