Four Key Communication Strategies Each Generation Uses
One of the most essential human needs is connection. This need is a learnable skill, meaning that nearly everyone can learn how to connect and become an even better communicator, especially when it comes to communication between generations. A generational whisperer is defined by intergenerational-expert Amy Lynch as: “When you're good at talking to multiple age groups and vibe with them all. A Generational Whisperer is someone who can 'whisper' to all the generations, and connect them in harmony.” This communication ability applies to work and business settings, as well as family and friend settings. In learning how to become a generational whisperer, the first key strategy is understanding how each generation communicates.
Silent Generation Communication Style (1925-1946)
One thing to know about the Silent Generation is how reserved and traditional they are. Right in line with history, this generation experienced one of the greatest financial hardships the US has ever known during the Great Depression of the 1930s. They believe in hard work and saving every dollar earned. The Silent Gen tends to stick to what they do best. When you communicate with the Silent Generation, be willing to show that you respect hard work and earning every dollar. If you are good at communicating, you will listen with your ears, and also be observant of body language used. When there is silence in communication, body language will help you understand more of what’s being said by the Silent Gen.
Baby Boomer Communication Style (1946-1964)
Shortly after WWII, the United States military men came back from war and families began to bloom everywhere. This was before women had the opportunity to join the armed forces. Between 1946 and 1964, there were 76.4 million births in the United States, making the Baby Boomers 40% of the nation’s population during this time. Boomers experienced many political and historical including the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1963 March on Washington led by Martin Luther King, and the 1969 first moon landing. When communicating with this audience, you need to be open to creative ideas, as well as implementation. Be a team player with a Boomer, and you’ll build by inspiration. Amy Lynch, stated in her keynote presentation at the 4GenNow Summit in November 2017 that when speaking with members of a different generation, it’s important to “start the conversation using words and an approach so they can hear you.”
For example, for Boomers: “Let’s do the right thing” is a bedrock expression that will resonate. Speak with Boomers about the importance of values, empowering the individual, as well as respecting the individual’s uniqueness. By doing so, you’ll be aligning language with Boomers’ entrepreneurial strengths.
Generation X Communication Style (1965-1980)
Gen Xers are known to be a very conservative age group because of their experiences watching their parents live through the days of double-digit inflation from 1979-1981. Unlike Baby Boomers who have been able to take advantage of Social Security as well as 401K plans and pensions, Gen Xers tend to favor self-reliance and entrepreneurship. According to Lynch, key phrases and characteristics that resonate with Gen Xers include: “This works, it gets results and do this your way,” while being mindful of Gen X entrepreneurial strengths including: ‘fast reactions when things change’ and leadership perspective that recognizes results and competence. In order to communicate with a Gen Xer, be willing to work on implementing an organized plan.
Millennial Communication Style (1980-2001)
Millenials are the insta-generation and were the first to grow up with high-speed internet. They want it all now: solutions, products, media, and information. Working with a millennial gives you a big advantage because this generation is not afraid to integrate your company processes with apps, especially those pertaining to social media and productivity. Add a millennial to your team, and you should be set for the majority of web-related processes. This generation is well educated and carries a large amount of student loan debt, which fosters entrepreneurial personality traits in order to pay their debt off. Millennials are smart enough to know that counting on institutional financial support, such as Social Security and corporate pensions, is a waste of time. Millennials prefer to work in teams to build their businesses and are the emerging ‘do it yourself’ generation. To best communicate with a millennial, be open, keep it meaningful but brief, while providing the most important information. One of the biggest strengths of a Millennial is how they can mentor older generations on how to market to younger customers and leverage technology.
When building your team, be aware of these different generational styles and you will be well on your way to becoming a “generational whisperer” From us to you at 4GenNow, get ready to dive in!