WARNING: The following post contains material that some may find “old-fashioned”, “out-of-date”, and even “old-fart”ish. Proceed at your own caution.
To be sure, I am not cool. I’ve known this all my life. Even when I tried to be cool when I was a teen-ager, I wasn’t able to pull it off. In fact, I remember many times as a fourth and fifth grader that during recess, I was hanging out with the teacher or recess monitor and talking with them because that way I could have a more mature conversation. I know, I’m totally uncool.
It should be no surprise, then, when I read a post on Linked-In that purported to be a guide to Baby-boomers and Gen-X’ers on how to communicate with Millennials, I found the post to be a complete pile of excrement.
The gist of the post was to take typical colloquialisms that Baby-boomers say and interpret first how Millennials hear them and then suggest a better way of saying it. Can I be the first one to say, “this is ridiculous!”. My first irritation is a minor one: “what-evs”? Seriously, I’m supposed to accept an adult using “what-evs” in their normal speech? What is this? Junior High? To adults who say this without a hint of irony: grow up and stop being lazy. Complete your words before you force the English language to sound French.
Here is my problem with this kind of trash parading around as business advice: not all people of a generation are the same. “WHAT!” Yes, that is right, people are individuals.
I know this goes against everything we learn from school, work, and politics. We a conditioned and trained by the society we live in to view people in groups. After all, we look at the 2012 presidential election as the 47% versus everyone else including “single women”, “blacks”, “hispanics”, etc. I put quotes, because that is how the news media presented those groups to us. At school, we had the jocks, geeks, nerds, cowboys, goths, freaks, preppies, and any number of other groups we were identified with. In my profession of architecture, when I worked in a large firm, people were grouped and you found yourself pidgeon-holed into a particular role based on what other people thought of you.
And this grouping by generations doesn’t even make sense. Apparently, because I was born in 1979, I am not as cool and hip as someone in born a few months later because I am Gen-X and they are a Millennial. But it is the same ridiculous logic that says because you are born between the 20th of one month and the 20th of the next month, you will have all the same likes, tendencies, inhibitions, emotions, etc. as all the other people born in that same 30 day period of the Gregorian calendar.
And yet, this grouping continues unabated. Nobody is ever judged by the content of their character because too many people just see a black man as a black man and a white man as a white man. They don’t bother to look deeper than the skin color, or in the case of generational discrimination: the grayness of their hair.
But am I even being true? I’m saying “nobody” and “they” to refer to large groups of people.
We need to stop and get to know people. It is all about knowing the individual. Groups are imaginary. They are arbitrary. In every group, there are exceptions. Why? Because they are not groups, they are a bunch of individuals each with their own life, story, personality, etc.