Millennials are from Mars, Boomers are from Venus
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Hello and welcome to Difficult Happens, we are living in a defensive time, where people are triggered to just react on a daily basis, in the workplace with our coworkers and even our clients, at home with our family members and even in our community.
Understanding why we, and others, act and react the way we do, and improving our awareness & communication skills, will help you connect & communicate with others in a whole new way which will lead to less stress & tension inherent when you walk around defensive, or in a defensive environment.
Today we are taking a look at a breeding ground for misunderstanding, defensive reactions, and potential conflict. That between the generations. Specifically the Boomers, Gen Xers, and the Millennials but first
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If I said Millennials are from Mars and Boomers are from Venus, Right away, I date myself. Boomers & Gen Xers would know what I mean and guess that I am more than likely a Gen X’er, why? because that title is a take on a Popular book by John gray that came out in 1992 called Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, where he uses the metaphor of men and women being from different planets and that each sex is acclimated to its own planet’s society and customs, but not to those of the other. One example is men’s complaint that if they offer solutions to problems that women bring up in conversation, the women are not necessarily interested in solving those problems, but mainly want to talk about them. The book asserts each sex can be understood in terms of distinct ways they respond to stress and stressful situations. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_Are_from_Mars,_Women_Are_from_Venus
The sexism in this thesis seems obvious if not a bit naive now.
This book has sold over 15 million copies and I believe that John Gray missed the mark in several ways https://difficulthappens.com/podcast-page/
#1 we all have a preferred communication method, that is, a way that we speak, and understand information, concepts, each other, I talk about this in more detail in episode 50 titled “it’s how you say it”
#2 in addition to our preferred communication method, our inherent personality heavily plays into our communication style, so much so that I devoted 5 episodes to exploring assessments, and personality test and what they have to offer, those are episodes 37 – 42 minus ep 38 which was an on-air coaching call. We went over 7 different assessments on those 5 episodes.
You guys don’t have to remember all the numbers because everything will be in the show notes, which are on my website difficult happens dot com, on the podcasts link along with the entire back catalog of episodes including those I reference here.
And finally # 3, I say finally because those are the big ones, this list of three is in no way all inclusive, Which is one of the reasons I love this topic so much
Okay, #3 is Context defined as;
The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.
or more simply put – the environment you are in, where or what generation you are from, and that determines the lens that you are looking through, your world view.
Let’s do something cool, and this will help you right away, become a better communicator, as we look at the generations, and some gross generalities, keep those 3 things in mind,
the way we like to communicate
Our innateness, who we are, how we define ourselves leading to
The way we see the world, or the lens we look through,
got it, okay let’s do this.
There are a lot of generations out there, not just these three, and I would love to do a deep dive about the interplay of all of them, but the medium shapes the method, and this medium, a podcast episode, defines the amount of time I have to unpack this topic while still holding your attention, and being of use to you
The baby boomers were born between 1946 – 1964 and are currently, in 2019 between the ages of 55-73 This is the generation that currently runs the majority of the corporations & the government
Generation X was born between 1965 – 1978 and are currently between the ages of 40-54
and the Millennial generation, which is hotly debated and I will tell you why in a minute, are between the ages of 25 – 39
you long time listeners are gonna know what’s coming, a caveat,
boxes, labels, generalities, designations, classifiers, are only as good as their ability to help us understand one another and only if they serve the common good. Like a double-edged sword, these same boxes and labels have been, and can be, used to hold back, minimize, dismiss and shame. So keep that in mind and know that I use these boxes and labels, for the first purpose, not the latter.
One of the reasons that the millennials and their grouping are hotly debated is because the very first thing that defines a generation is a shared experience.
For example 9/11, two of my children are 22, and one is 24, that puts the kids at 4, 4 & 6 respectively. My oldest vividly remembers it, because she was in school, she remembers all the adults around her, her friends and their older siblings, the upperclassmen, the radio, and the news. The younger two remember it vaguely but for a different reason. Kids just a few years older than grace, my oldest, were so profoundly impacted that it shaped their career decisions, many chose military and government life.
Because of the new world we live in, the generations may no longer be so easily defined, as shared experiences are happening on a regional level, like the earthquake we Seattleites experienced in 2001, (same year as 9/11 by the way), or the power outage that lasted weeks in the middle of the winter a few years before in 1999. I bet you can think of some shared experiences that you and those in your community experienced that the rest of us might not be aware of.
Information, context, shared experiences and how we see the world all play into it.
In 1969 When the moon landing was happening, all channels were tuned in, there were not a gazillion other channels where people could skip the landing and watch something else like there is today, everyone was captivated, the entire nation was paying attention.
We can say similar things about shared experiences and the Gen Xers which I am one of, but here is where the variables begin to become even more numerous, there are more regional factors, experiential factors, media input factors, and definitely social factors.
Millennials have even more variables that make them more difficult to group together and label
(p.s. remember what I said about labels,) I think this generation often suffers from the later definition of labeling, I rarely hear the word millennial before something nice, it is usually being used to hold back, minimize, dismiss or shame.
Think about it, this generation had permissive parents & helicopter parents, strict parents and the “I want to be their best friend’ parents, some of the parents couldn’t tolerate watching their children suffer and robbed them of natural consequences. Other parents opened the world to their children by taking them traveling, letting them pursue what they desired and accepted them for who they are. This is the generation that brought about a new psychological designation, the parentification of children and are only now studying what impact that has had on them.
I could go on and on, what it comes down to is the #1 reason that there is tension between the Boomers in particular, and the Millennials and the boomers are the unknown, the unrelatable.
Humans are not comfortable in the unknown realm, we have survived for millennia because of our observational and predictive abilities. and when we are unsure if something is safe, we get the heck out of there before we become a meal.
That is at the base level.
Molly McPherson, https://mollymcpherson.com/, who was on last week’s episode 53 titled “Social Media is more powerful than the media”, has a great phrase she uses that helps to explain this gap in a brilliant way. Millennials and those generations after them, are ‘digital natives’ Xers and boomers and those generations that came before them are ‘digital immigrants’ This concept isn’t hers but as a public relations expert, she uses this concept to help bridge understanding.
The natives have never known a time without social media, internet, open access to information at their fingertips, the lack of privacy and the concept of an ‘online persona vs IRL” or in real life.
Which brings me to the second biggest difference between the generations.
and I want to check in here with you, are you keeping context, the way we like to communicate and innate personality in mind here? Good, I knew you were with me,
Boomers in general value respect, they believe in working your way up, and that respect is earned. They were the workaholic generation and feel that sacrifice is necessary, They worked hard for what they have, and had lots of opportunities and corporate fealty was the norm. where their predecessors retired at 65, in general, many continue to work well past that, my own mom is in her 70’s and claims she just recently retired, however, she has been self-employed for decades and often when I call her and ask her what she is up to she will say headed to a job, so yea, retired. They know a lot and have experienced a lot of change.
You can see how they are often rubbed the wrong way by the more self-assured, outspoken, non-deferential millennials. Who have never lived the phrase “children should be seen and not heard’ unless told to them by their parents, the gen Xers, they may have understood the phrase, but cannot relate to the reality of the sentiment. That concept did not exist for them, rightly or wrongly. Rightly I think
Generations value different things as well, we often hear about the “American dream”.
What does that mean to you? Do you think a 70yo thinks the American dream is the same thing as a 30yo?
For most millennials this American dream, a solid education, that leads to getting a great job, with a good pension, and Benny’s, homeownership and a solid future.
These things do not exist for them.
There was a great Saturday night live skit called “millennial millions”, that got to the nut of this in a brilliant way, I will put a link in the show notes, they got the parentage generations wrong but the sentiment between boomers and millennials was spot on, with a nod to how gen Xers, or the sandwich generation, are perceived to sit passively by.
Briefly here is the synopsis.
It is a faux jeopardy game where the millennials are playing for health insurance debt relief or a mortgage. While introducing themselves one contestant explains that she is 26 and there for the health insurance because her company Google, uses a lot of contract employees, and benefits are not a reality for her
The other contestant is introduced as a 25 yo with a Masters from NYU who recently landed an internship at Burger King when asked if that was at the corporate office, he responds “no”
The way they win the game, is if they can ‘make it past the boomers’ The boomers are introduced in song as the generation who came home from war, grew up in a time where America was the only superpower and they all went to school and bought all the houses and won’t ever die,
The first boomer is introduced has a banker who had a stable job and worked for 30 stable years then retired to key west with a 8 million $ severance, but still takes her social security because she earned it.
All the millennial has to do to win Soc Security is stay quiet while the boomer talks, which the host acknowledges will be hard because he knows how hard it is for a millennial to listen to anything that “challenges their world view,”
when the millennial predictably can’t keep her mouth shut, the host jokes “ah that’s too bad, why don’t you tweet about it.” which is followed up with “I’m just kidding, I am gen Xer, we just sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn”
There are a lot more nuggets of gold in there and it is definitely worth a watch.
It is a hilarious (and painful all at once)
Saturday night live, millennial millions.
This skit brings about an interesting concept or reality depending on how you view it, That the gen Xers, the ones generally writing the blog posts, or recording the podcast episodes, or directing the narrative in some way, are thought of as the lost generation, or the middle child of generations
They are technologically adept, educated, individualistic and value the mythical work-life balance. They were also raised by boomers who were dubbed the “Me” generation by writer Tom Wolfe during the 1970s; Christopher Lasch was another writer who commented on the rise of a culture of narcissism among this generation. The phrase caught on with the general public, at a time when “self-realization” and “self-fulfillment” were becoming cultural aspirations where people supposedly ascribed higher importance than social responsibility. Jogging, Free love, protesting, were all perceived as selfish and self-absorbed at the time, and was viewed as the demise of tradition and faith, delayed gratification & the rise of consumerism.
If you haven’t watched the t.v. show Seinfeld in awhile, watch an episode, and tell me if you think it is as funny as you thought it was then,
Anywho. Gen x, the middle child, the latchkey kids, the first “daycare kids” are a smaller generation, the first that experienced in a major way what they used to call “broken homes” and now call divorced parents or single parent homes.
Saturday night live jokingly called them the generation that sits on the sidelines and watches the world burn, but as a gen Xer I would first admit my own blindness in some way, and put forth this thesis, a lot of gen Xers suffered trauma, the free love movement of the 60’s lead way to the cult and predatory reality of the ’70s & the ’80s, The me generation, and lack of decent childcare options, left latchkey kids isolated and often victimized, Which has many in the reactionary, defensive self protection mode.
I want to remind everyone here about what I said about boxes and labels, this isn’t everyone, it is indicative of trends, not all boomers are as discussed here, neither are all gen Xers or millennial,
Professor Christine Henseler, author of Generation Now; millennials call for social change https://www.amazon.com/Generation-Now-Millennials-Social-Change/dp/1720610223 summarizes this generation gen x as “a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance, and human rights for all.”
With these definitions or understandings, we can see how #1, ways of communicating, can impact the different generations
#2 how we view ourselves and our place in the world and # 3, the context, of our experiences play
another difference that I want to touch on here is how collaboration plays in
Broadly, the me generation has the traditional corporate hierarchy mindset, Their world was one where you rose through the ranks and enjoyed all the benefits of station, and corporate support,
The Xers, were some of the first to view entrepreneurship and social justice as a career choice, but being the sandwich generation they often fall into the “interpreter or mediator” role, attempting to bridge the gap between the generations to find some consensus or place for themselves, or to retreat all together and sit back while the two worlds, the boomer corporate world, and the millennial new world, plays out.
The factors I mentioned, communication methods, how we see ourselves, and our own personal life context determines the path one takes.
The millennials education was one of collaboration, from their earliest school years to their college experience, collaboration with other students was the norm, co-working has exploded and many continue that tradition taking advantage of the startup model. They do not view hierarchy in the same way that boomers do, they value what you bring to the table and how you contribute, not your age or status.
With these generational definitions, I hope that I have helped to open your eyes to they ways that we are different and the ways we are the same.
So let’s bring this all together.
I have defined, broadly the way the generations communicate, the way that they see themselves in relation to the generations and the context of their experiences and how that impacts how they interact with one another.
I think of them as the loner, the collaborator and the ignored???
So what will you do with this knowledge?
How will you put it to use in your life and work?
Be mindful of the culture of the environment, where a person is coming from, how they like to communicate, and you can find common ground.
No matter what generation you are from.
Boomers, in general, like to deal with the here and now, millennials, in general, like to know what’s next, so how can you paint a picture to illustrate how you conquer the here and now issue, while showing how that may lead to a larger what’s next, try not to assume intent, practice the clarify and verify method, asking questions to make sure that you are understanding the other person. Open communication is key. And respect is always called for
Millennials can take advantage of the wisdom and knowledge of the boomers by being open and curious,
There are three things to keep in mind when dealing across generations. What is that person’s context, what are their experiences and how can you relate to them where they are at? What is your shared goal,
When it comes to communicating intergenerationally try deferring to how the other prefers to communicate, is that by phone, by email, text or vox, meeting them where they are at may just help you bridge that gap.
If you are a boomer, get curious, engage the millennial, be specific and respectful while conveying your point, and stay open to their world view. They are, I say without cliche the future, they can teach & aid you into this new world, and take the company with them.
Millennials and gen Xers alike, value honesty and vulnerability. Being real. The social media world that they grew up with has them savvy to the fake, persona type narrative, they will respond positively to open and honest conversations.
Ask yourself, are you feeling a need to push back because of a fear of change or are you open to what the other is saying?
So the next time you find yourself communicating across the generations, take a minute to think about how communication styles, the others view of self, and their context is influencing them and the way they are communicating to you.
If you have an open mind, respect & clearly defined intentions. There is a place for all of us to get to the future together.
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On next weeks episode, we will take a look at how you can communicate without coming across as aggressive or the dreaded B word. And how you can own your power.
until next time…
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Show Intro music is Whispering Through by Asura
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