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Communication and the Generations

According to experts, the communication gap between generations is getting wider. We've always spoken different "languages"...23 skidoo, cat's pajamas, blow your mind, totally, phat, text me, k? But now in addition to choosing different colloquialisms and jargon, we're choosing different modes of communication.

My Grandmother asked me if I took a class in college to learn how to use email. I asked her if she took one to learn how to use the phone when she was a girl. She replied, "Of course not, silly." When I explained to her that this was a similar situation, she disagreed. "Email is VERY complicated compared to picking up the phone and just talking into it."

I suppose from her perspective it is complicated. But to Gen Xers, it's just the way you do business. I graduated from college in 1991 and I never worked in an environment without email. I know from my Boomer colleagues that back in the day, people had to write memos, photocopy them and put them in people's mail boxes...or sometimes get up and walk to their desks for face-to-face conversations, or make a phone call.

Millenials use text messaging and IM to stay in almost constant communication both at work and in their personal lives. This is a wholly different paradigm than what existed 20 or 10 years ago. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

Generational preferences aside, it would benefit everyone if a wide spectrum of communication approaches were embraced. I have had to consciously choose not to email the person in the desk right next to my own because I know that my Boomer neighbor likes in-person communication--and, I admit, when discussing complex topics it is better.

IM and text messaging has its place, as do in-person meetings, phone calls and emails. If we stick to an old rule of considering your audience before communicating with them, we can bridge this gap with very little effort. And for you Millenials out there, remember that punctuation and grammar count to Xers, Boomers and Traditionalists. K? : )

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