Communication Between the Generations

Tech update

I was at a convenience store the other day buying a soda when the cashier made a comment to another store employee that there was a recent “screwup” by a young employee. I started to chat with the cashier/manager, who expressed her frustration that today’s young people “don’t know anything.” She was an older woman who had experience doing her job, so her comment was mainly directed at the work regarding the store. I started to think about her comment in more general terms. To put the stereotype in the bluntest of terms: Old people don’t get young people and vice versa.
The reasons behind this are many, but the primary finger I believe should be pointed at technology. Is it really the fault of the gizmos and the games? No. The attitudes we see today are the same as when teenagers and young adults rebelled against the older generations in the 1950s and 60s. I think the addition of technology exacerbates an already existing problem – communication. The generations struggle to communicate effectively. For every generation there is a new set of behaviors, words and styles that define that era. Why do we struggle as people to embrace or accept the changes of the next group? Maybe a better question is: Why does the new generation struggle to accept the traditions and history of those who have gone before them? Probably the best question is: Why does it matter? If we strip away the technology and the tradition, what are we left with? People. Young or old, we are all fundamentally the same. We have to learn to communicate on the same level again.
Technology makes communication easier and harder all at the same time. Texting is the wave of the future and to be honest, I find it very convenient. However, it lacks the personal touch of a phone call. Texting has the same pit-fall as an e-mail – you are unable to see or hear the speaker, which can make the world of difference between someone saying, “Hey” in a tone of voice that insinuates they’re having a great day versus a tone that suggests their dog just died. Sometimes hearing a voice or seeing a face can make all the difference in the world. Unfortunately, one thing electronic communication provides is a sense of removal from the words and their meaning. Words on a page or texts on a screen can add a layer of anonymity, which is a powerful thing around a controversial subject.
I find that the older generations are more inclined to reject anonymity in favor of ownership. Why make a strong statement or an opinion if you aren’t going to take ownership of that idea or thought? On a side note, I think this removal of responsibility has partially led to the rise in cyber-bullying today. Back to the original thought: How do we get people to communicate? It circles back to education and understanding. Personally, I struggle against ideas or behaviors to which I cannot relate. In those cases I feel no connection, which makes me apathetic to the subject or speaker. If we all take the time to educate one other about what makes us tick, it may help us communicate better. Such education may not change our opinions or make us all agree, but at least we can understand where other people are coming from.
How can we achieve this type of learning? Listening. Talking. Patience. Changing the world doesn’t have to be accomplished with broad strokes. We can take some time, one on one, to make a difference. Take the time to commend someone else on a job well done or ask about their thoughts on a topic. Who knows? Older generations could learn about the wonders of the human mind experienced through the technology of today. Younger generations could realize that the experiences and knowledge of the older generation are worth more than gold.