When thinking about your academic formation years, you will likely remember at least one high school teacher or college professor whom everyone in your class liked. Being cool is one of the highest compliments students can bestow onto their instructors, and this has a lot to do with charisma and communication skills. In the case of college professors who are quite a few years older than their students, they tend to be aware of a generation gap that must be overcome, and this can be accomplished with the right communications strategy.
Here are a few communication tips you can follow to make your interactions with younger and older generations easier:
* Make sure you understand the dynamics of respect and trust. Younger generations have already learned about showing respect for older people in certain positions, but respect should flow both ways. If you are the older person in a conversation, don’t assume that your age will automatically give you the upper hand; showing respect for others means actively listening to what they have to say. With regard to trust, this is a matter of choice and merit; you can always choose the level of trust to assign to other persons, but you will have to earn the right to be trusted by others, and this is done through facts and actions that support our words.
* Learn to be realistic with regard to expectations. We often think that older people know everything, and that the younger generations are capable of meeting every challenge. We must accept that this is not always the case, and this acceptance should be reflected in conversation. Elders do not have to know all the answers, and young people cannot be expected to be jacks of all trades.
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There should be an unspoken agreement to balance experience and ability when two generations communicate.
* Avoid falling into the holier-than-thou trap. This error in thinking used to flow from older to younger generations, but it has reversed course in recent years. All generations have provided benefits to the world we live in; likewise all of them have also made mistakes. Blaming generations or assuming superiority is a pointless argument that should always be avoided, and a good way to do so is by accepting that all generations have good things to contribute.
* Being persuasive does not mean forcing others to change. Your cool college professors knew that their messages had the best of intentions, but they did not assume that all students would change because of their ability to deliver lessons effectively. There is a difference between being forceful and being persuasive; good communicators will never try to force others to change. This is part of showing respect towards others, and it can go a long way in terms of communicating with other generations.
In the end, generation gaps are mostly caused by communication breakdowns, which means that they can be ameliorated by proper communication skills. The tips presented herein form a solid basis for interacting with members of younger and older generations, but they must be continuously practiced in a conscious fashion for better effect.