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Bridging the gap between younger and older generations

As we get more digital in our communications, the chasm between the older generations and younger generations will only increase. With new generations of smart phones released year-to-year, social media, a booming app industry, and technology only getting smarter everyday, we’re bound to live in digital bubbles communicating only via online messages.

And no matter how up-to-date on technologies, apps and gadgets you might think you are, there will always be a younger generation (and a newer generation of gizmos and gadgets) that is outsmarting you, and technology that is advancing faster than you can keep up with. And some day, we will all wake up and be the older generation that has been left far behind in the communications race. How will aging Gen-X’ers and Boomers, perhaps even a few Gen-Y’ers keep up as the youngest generation gains speed?

Our current workforce is a kaleidoscope of vets, baby boomers, Gen Y’ers and Gen X’ers. And communication conflicts will tend to arise as a result. It is a noisy world out there with messages coming at us from different directions. How do we decode all of these correspondences?

The best way to understand and adjust our communication is to pay attention to our coworkers and customers. What are they saying and what communication modes are they using? Some are chronic texters, some others will swear by email, and there’s the coworker that will call you for everything. And then, the old fashioned person (and this transcends generations), who enjoys face-to-face meetings. How important are these people to you and how much are you willing to change your preferred method of communicating?

It’s best to be flexible. Indulge the baby boomer that might prefer face-to-face meetings; and respect the busy boss who may only send you monosyllabic text messages. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask your co-workers or customers how they would like to be contacted or to suggest your own communication mode. If you’re an email person and you want to avoid some of the face-to-face meetings, find a creative, middle-of-the-ground solution that works for everyone – like turning a few of the face-to-face meetings into teleconferences.

Once people know you’re flexible, chances are, they will take steps to meet you halfway as well. It all starts with understanding and respect, especially across generational barriers.